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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. Lola

    “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
    Mahatma Gandhi

    May 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  2. Steve

    Take a look at this:

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9KlMWzKj4s&w=640&h=360]

    May 25, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  3. Carmen

    I knew Pastor Jeffress would put this in the right perspective it's amazing how people don't read the Bible. I got a phone call from a dear cousin early Saturday morning about this madness and told her no one knows when the end of the world will come and I told her you just have to be saved and know Jesus Christ died for your sins.

    May 25, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  4. KingdomWork

    Just a question to ponder...Could it be that Jesus Christ is returning differently than we expect Him to? Everyone is expecting Him to return with the rapture... The word "rapture" isn't in the bible. Did you know that?
    In the New Testament, the religious people of the day crucified Jesus because they didn't recognize who Jesus was; as well as, His new Kingdom teachings. (Era of Grace) The Pharisees couldn't accept Him or His new teachings. They wanted to continue under the old era of Old Testament Law; thus, they had Him killed because they thought He was a false teacher.
    Maybe Christ is returning in the form of His Holy Spirit? Living through His believers? Our bodies are His temple, where He can live through us? Have you ever looked at what He taught? He taught The Kingdom of God/Heaven. The kingdom is supposed to already be here now! Interesting, right?
    Could it be that no one knows the time or hour of His return because we receive His spirit/return at different times? Just a thought?!?!

    May 25, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • SeanNJ

      It's more likely he just ain't comin' back.

      May 25, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  5. Texas Slim Jim

    The notion that the Bible represents God's revelation to mankind is a dubious claim. Perhaps Christian apologists can enlighten us as to why it took so many centuries for the OT and NT scriptures to be recorded and canonized and mass produced if the content was so important to us. One could argue that the Bible was not widely available to mankind until well after the modern printing press was developed. Not a very efficient way of revealing oneself...

    May 25, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • Relictus

      Maybe Jesus was just waiting for Facebook to be invented ...

      May 26, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  6. William Demuth

    This merely reinforces Christianity as a Cult.

    A dangerous cult that harms both its followers and society in general.

    Enough of word games, people who belive this are mentally ill, no different than the crazies in the Muslim and Jewish communities.

    They need to be ridiculed, and if they fail to seek treatment, they need to be incarcerated.

    May 25, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • Debunking the REAL Myths

      William Demuth

      This merely reinforces Christianity as a Cult.

      A dangerous cult that harms both its followers and society in general.

      Enough of word games, people who belive this are mentally ill, no different than the crazies in the Muslim and Jewish communities.

      They need to be ridiculed, and if they fail to seek treatment, they need to be incarcerated.
      ----------

      Can you prove all that call themselves Christians are really Christians, Then by your statement I can call myself a car and you would have to believe it.

      Do you know all forms of Christianity? Impossible because each person has their own belief structure.

      Debunked

      May 28, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • Fail

      straight owned

      June 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Dr.Carpenter

      What a great idea! Let's put people I jail fir their religious beliefs. Why didn't someone think of this simple solution before? Pure genius, William Demuth. Oh wait ...... According to my history book, some german guy already tried that. Oh well, you have proved that your genius ranks up there with other historic figures.

      August 11, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  7. Caoilfhion

    Harold Camping isn't making Christians look bad, they've been doing that to themselves forever.

    For claiming to be such compassionate religion, you lot are awfully judgmental. Honestly- if there is a God out there then he will love EVERYONE who tries to live a whole and good life. Even if they're gay, straight, Atheist or just crazy. And if he's supposedly going to come back (which is unlikely to begin with) then he won't just take those select few who believe in a book that says a man parted the sea with his cane. The bible is fiction. It is written by common men It's like if someone came out today and said, "Hey look guys! I wrote this book and it's all true!"

    I personally cannot support such a judgmental religion. It's like the Plague. The fact that Christianity is decreasing is fantastic- that means people will actually live for themselves and the benefit of others- not just because some book said that some guy said that if we do all these things we'll go to this great place, and if we don't believe then we're going to rot away in the underworld.

    It's crazy. Why would you believe that anyway?

    May 24, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  8. bush limbush

    religion is laughable and this whole doomsday thing just proves it.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  9. Gojiraatomic

    I really wish intelligent alien life was found and made contact with. I see this as a way to end this discussion....... So have you heard of jesus or allah or god...? ( name your diety) Get a blank look or a nod......things get interesting.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  10. Suz

    Seems to me that if the Messiah had come to the Earth already... he would have finished the job the first time around instead of saying, "oh, hey, sit tight, I'll be back one day."

    May 24, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  11. Jarno

    Quote from the article: "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."

    So, in other words, the only difference between Harold Camping and the author is that Caping put a date on when the world would turn into something out of a magical fairy-story, and people would float up into the sky.

    Here's the news: it isn't the setting of the date that is making Christians look silly.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • jeff

      you nailed it jarno. in all probablilty there will never be a rapture. i say that as someone who strongly believed in the second coming. the idea that Christians will get a heavenly seat to watch all the chaos is pure crap however. prior to the 1830's Christians expected to go through the tribulation not escape it.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:50 am |
    • Jan

      Well said. The author of this article is no better than Camping. Camping just happens to be more faithful and has demonstrated the courage of his convictions (faulty as they are).

      May 24, 2011 at 2:39 am |
    • Petrus

      bravo counting crows...the "rapture" is a 19th century American invention...

      May 24, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      "the "rapture" is a 19th century American invention.."
      Yes it is! ... and much of the American church clings to it, because it promises them no suffering and persecution, but Jesus said that the servant is not greater then his master... If they persecuted Him, they will do them too.. and through much tribulation we will enter the kingdom of Heaven.
      The true Christians of all ages past were persecuted for their faith.. Does today's "Laodicean" church thinks it will escape it?
      No, but because the the spirit of deception has blinded them, they can not understand the very words of 2Thessalonians 2:2-5 that specifically declare that Christians will have NO EARLY EXIT.
      But that's just the way satan wants it, because when he comes on the scene, many of those deceived Christians will NOT recognize him, and fall for him, since they were told they would not be here.... That's the peril when people look to man for interpretation of the Scriptures, instead of God....

      NO man can understand things of God on his own, unless God gives it to him. But He only gives it to those who seek Him, and only Him, in humility of their hearts, and total abandonment of self.

      So, you sceptics, and self proclaimed atheists out there... do not gloat over your "superior intelligence" and mock those who err, but still hold on to the Lord.... and don't spew your frivolous rantings. You have nothing to boast about. Sure, Christians are human beings who fall short on many accounts. But YOU are the ones who are the real losers, because in folly of pride that's in your hearts, you have lost ability to perceive what is real, and have lost the knowledge that you are more then what eyes can see and natural senses can perceive. Because in your folly you have silenced the voice of your own consciences which testified to you of truth, and therewith have denied your own souls .

      There is no other option for you, then to humble yourself and go back to where you left your consciences, that perhaps God in His mercy would give you repentance, and your poor souls would be spared from going into that place called hell, which you so vehemently deny that it exists. But you can't deny it away, because the reality does not depend on your opinions, it'll be there awaiting you, staring you in the face! One thing for sure is, you can't blame anyone for ending up there.... It will be your own fault, since God did not leave you out, but provided a way for you...
      So, no man can take anything from God. HE is the Lord, and we can listen, or turn away and do our own thing. That's the choice man has, called free will. But it comes with conditions which determine the consequences....

      " Oh, the depth of the riches both of wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out... He has hidden them from those who are wise in their own eyes, but revealed them to the humble, and those of broken and contrite hearts... "
      But fools say in their hearts that there is no God, ans so they go on their own way, not knowing where it leads them, till they fall , and keep falling and keep falling, till they hear the voices of those who went before them having done same as they did.... And that's the reality, dear people, that no man can change, and his opinion does not affect!

      May 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  12. John

    You know what hurts Christianity the most.....CHRISTIANS!

    May 23, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  13. christopher

    Why would this movement harm christianity. As if these nuts represent christianity at all to begin with. They do not and I assure you christianity is not harmed. Perception is but that is really irrelevant. If you want to use this as another reason to denounce all christians then go ahead but us christians are fine either way. We are unharmed I assure you. You disbelief is not going to effect our belief.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  14. Buster dugg

    where does the bible, religion, rapture, etc. stand should we find microbial life on other planets and moons in the solar system?

    May 23, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • christopher

      What does it matter since that hasn't happened?

      May 23, 2011 at 8:12 am |
    • Laura

      God is still God and He still has His eyes upon you. Check out the youtube video called Indescribable by Louie Giglio. It was so great and fascinating. ...it's about the universe and all the stars...wow!

      May 23, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • PhdxinxDuh

      If God created everything, then the life would be part of his creation. There is no reason why life forms couldnt be on other planets.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  15. gypsumrose

    Ask yourself this, would a loving god gamble your soul in a cosmic poker game with the devil? would a loving god give you a book that supposedly has all the answers, an intelligent mind with which to think, then make all the evidence in the world contradict the book? are you really serving a god or are you serving a church, a belief, and a delusion that time and time again has been disproven..........insulting whatever divine being is out there by continuing to believe things that have been proven false will not help you in life. I think people really need to step back and ask themselves. do i believe this because my intelligent divinely given mind believes it or do i believe this because i was told to and im afraid. if there is a god it gave you a brain PLEASE USE IT!!!!

    May 23, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • christopher

      evidence in the world? What are you talking about. Science and the bible line up just fine. Science has never and will never go against the bible (although that seems to be the goal of most scientists)and while there may be theories that contradict the bible they haven't been proven to be law and everyone is flawed.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • Laura

      You answered your question yourself when you said people were told to believe it because they were afraid. Many people do not want to face God because He is awesome and should be feared. But, many people don't want to acknowledge God because they have been tricked into believing the very things you talked about. Science and history always line up with the Bible. You are making the assumption that the Bible must fit into the world's ideas and beliefs, when it's the exact opposite...the world must fit into the Bible and it always does.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Nightwyn

      How could there be free will if there is not an alternate choice?

      May 23, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Christopher

      Science and the Bible line up?

      You are joking right? Or are you one of those that want to rewrite textbooks to match your twisted vision of the world?

      The Bible is no more a scientific work than the Koran is, or any of the other pieces of propoganda so popular amongst the poorly informed.

      May 25, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  16. DonD

    "...gives non-Christians one more reason to discount the Bible."

    Pastor, I am sure you're a good man, and I do respect you. But you know, Christians have given us SO MANY reasons to discount the Bible, that many of us past Christians just can't take what they say at all anymore.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  17. DonD

    "...gives non-Christians one more reason to discount the Bible."

    Pastor, I am sure you're a good man, and I do respect you. But you know, Christians have given us SO MANY reasons to discount the Bible, that many of us past Christians just can't take what they say at all anymore.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  18. yen Phan

    Bible was written by men.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      You're totally right! Because who or what else would have written it?

      God has always used men (meaning humans) to bring about His purposes. For example, God could have parted the red sea without telling Moses to lift up his cane. Why did He instruct Moses to lift up his cane so He can part the red sea? To show us that we are the means of His accomplishments. Besides, I'm more than sure that if there were ancient scrolls or tablets claimed to have been written by God Himself, we most definitely wouldn't believe it. But we all believe in one coomon thing...that man has written the bible. So, now it's a matter of faith to believe who inspired man to write this great and life altering book.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • christopher

      Do you have a point or are you just stating the obvious. You may as well have said the sky is blue. It's pretty common knowledge. When you state something so simple minded it begs for a point to be made. The bible even says it was written by men. Who has disputed that?

      May 23, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • Paul E. Tooley Sr

      The Bible was written by inspiration 2 Tim. 3:16. Of course God did the inspiring to persons.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Yen

      The Bible was written by dishonorable or mentally ill men.

      It has continued to be used by men of the same caliber to poison the minds of innocents, and as a rational for war.

      It is an abomination.

      May 25, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  19. Ranzabar

    Jesus is coming, I know it, I FEEL it. Wait...oh no. I've insulted the Great Pumpkin by calling him Jesus. One slip like that and the Great Pumpkin will pass by your Pumpkin Patch.

    I'm doomed.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  20. counting crows

    Heaven, hell, god, the rapture. All of it is total garbage. Jesus was a politician, not the son of "god" and he ain't never coming back. No messiahs coming to save us. It's just us folks. Live a good life, be kind, do the best you can. That's all there is.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Laura

      I double dog dare ya to test Him and see if He is God. Ask Him to show HImself to you! If He remains silent, you have lost nothing but if He does show Himself to you, you will have a mind-blowing experience! Double dog dare ya!!!

      May 23, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • ImLook'nUp

      @ Laura

      Totally agree with you......I hounded God and got blown away!!

      May 23, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • William Demuth

      Laura.

      If God is showing himself to you, then you belong in a padded cell.

      Stop the nonesense and seek some help, you are obvoiusly quite ill.

      May 25, 2011 at 9:09 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.