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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. Lettuce Prey

    "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."

    The real event? Nonsense. The end of days has been predicted every few years for as long as I can remember. Like this May 21 group, they refuse to answer when you ask them what they will do if their date passes and we're all still here. Check out aftertherapturepetcare dot com and eternal-earthbound-pets dot com. Wish I'd thought of that.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Gumby

      Rapture isn't in the bible anyway. Darby and a few other 19th-century goofballs took a couple of verses out of context and made up this whole steaming pile of idiocy. No one's going to float out of their car and away to heaven in a Rapture, May 21, or ever. I really have to wonder about the mental soundness of anyone who actually believes this comic-book nonsense.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Da Professor

      Back in my distant youth, I remember accompanying a girl that I was dating to her Southern Baptist Church and listening to her preacher for one very long hour predicting that the world would end in the year 2000.
      -
      That was my last date with that airhead.
      -

      It is predictions like that that has many people walking away from organized religion. Rather sad.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  2. Sum1comon

    I will be dipping my nuts in coconut oil watching Jerry Springer at 6PM!

    May 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  3. phearis

    I find this whole thing extremely funny. I can't wait to see what they say when the world doesn't end on Saturday. Remember, this is like the 6th or 7th time this church has prophesied doomsday; and if you haven't noticed, they've been wrong every time.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  4. erik

    May you are wrong and catholicism is a big reason why people turn away from Christianity with all the hypocrisy and the rules that your own priests don't follow then you are going to come on here saying that the only person you can partake in the Lord's Supper is the Catholic church? Wowwwww you need to just stop right now because you are really lost.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • erik

      place*

      May 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • May

      And you Erik are perfect? No, only our Lord Jesus Christ was perfect, the rest are human beings who sin at least 7 times a day, some are perhaps what we would consider graver sins than others, but in God's eyes, a sin is a sin is a sin, and only through His Mercy can we spend eternity with Him.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • josh

      may catholicism is religion is christianity bad, they make christianity a religion. take the holy spirit out of christianity and you get religion. It's christianity is about love, not rules. That's why Jesus spoke against the pharasees and sadducees.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:12 am |
  5. Whatever

    Observer...

    What you just said has about as much merit as the end of the world coming. A whole lot of yelling how unfair things are without much coherent thought.

    – Whatever

    May 17, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  6. martin luther

    People who put more trust in Faith than Reason, and use it as an excuse not to educate themselves– that is what hurts society.
    The Doomsday nuts hurt Christianity, the same way Christainity hurts society.
    Let's grow, learn & love beyond groups of people arguing who's interpretation of a myth is silly or serious...

    May 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  7. Ben

    The biblical end has been predicted so many times in the last 2000 years that it becomes sickly funny. The Jehovah's Witnesses and 7th Day Adventist both worship under a religion that was originally a failed biblical dooms day cult. Heaven Gate cult all dead. Why people don't wise up and move on is beyond comprehension. Leaders like David Koresh that rule their flocks though dooms day cons and prediction are always power mongers stealing peoples money and power for themselves through fear. Pretty cowardly and gutless if you ask me. Live your own life, when your time comes you will know!

    May 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  8. erik

    Human beings forget one thing, the God that created us can do anything. Look at what we humans do that's literally amazing in itself. Watching people thats not here on a TV, using a telephone to talk to someone hundreds and thousands of miles away, electricity and I could go on and on but yet you dismiss the one who is greater who created us can do. Oh ye of little faith, GOD CAN DO ANYTHING!

    May 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Colin

      Erik – the technology you mentioned all came from science and the scientific method of reasoning. We have all this despite our beliefe in sky-gods, not becuase of it. Despite what religious apologists like to think, science and religion are completely incompatible. Legitimate acceptance of the formernegates the ability to accept on pure faith, which is what religion needs. Acceptance of the latter means a betrayal of the principlas of the former.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  9. beelzabarber

    Christianity hurts Christianity. It's just the level of kookiness,corruption, and fear that differentiates each of the branches

    May 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  10. shoodoobee

    I'll be at the U2 concert on Saturday, hey, maybe it will happen right as they sing Until The End Of The World!!

    May 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Frogist

      Or Beautiful Day! (Which was the song they woke the Endeavour Astronauts up with this morning...) Have fun. They are the best!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  11. Rayshawn Ordway

    We have heard this Bullpucky before like Y2K, the 2012 Mayan Calender ending, that guy a few centuries ago saying that "Jesus will return on this date" and when that date dropped Jesus didn't return what I'm saying is these people are just trying to strike fear into you to become a Christian because they have heard the facts and the recent study revealing that people are no longer practicing the religion of Christianity or in another words the Christian faith is shirinking(getting smaller) kind of like the dinosaurs EXTINCT!.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  12. May

    Glad to see that this Pastor recognizes that no one, not even the angels, or Jesus Christ, knows the day or the hour.
    Remember too Pastor Jeffress, that the Bible not only says that you must know Jesus, but also that you must eat of his flesh and drink his blood. The only place that happens is at the Catholic Mass. Please consider joining the Catholic faith to be in full Communion with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • god=myth

      eating flesh and blood? sounds like a pagan cult... oh wait, christianity is a pagan ripoff crafted for weak minded retards. carry on 😉

      May 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • god=myth

      does the bible also say that priests should force their pen0r into the tight butt of young helpless boys?

      May 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Hobbit

      There are a lot of Lutherans, Methodist, Presbyterians, etc that would beg to differ..

      May 17, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Chris

      Now, Mary, that irks me quite a bit. I'm a protestant that is excited to hang out with plenty of Catholics in heaven, but you seem to think that only Catholics will make it. I know some Lutherans who think that Lutheran = Christian and that is foolish, myopic, and does Jesus no service. Same with Catholics such as yourself.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • May

      Chris, I just ask you to read the Bible completely, the entire Bible, not just a reduced version with books missing. You can be irked if you like, as for me, I refuse to be irked, as Christ's final commandment was 'Love one another as I have loved you.' As for the rest of you, I do not condone the actions of some misguided Priests, just as I do not condone the actions of some of our government officials, public safety officers, teachers and the like.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • josh

      catholicism is christianity gone bad, they make christianity a religion. take the holy spirit out of christianity and you get religion. It's christianity is about love, not rules. That's why Jesus spoke against the pharasees and sadducees. I surely don't remember Jesus saying we had to be catholic. It's a personal relationship between you and God. Nobody else. As love as you believe in the trinity, the bible and live it then you will go to heaven.As long as christians believe those and what goes with it, then we need to unify against Satan not against each other. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:20 am |
    • josh

      Enough of the religious bullcrap May! It's about love period! Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul and love you neighbor as yourself!. Christ didn't come to condemn, but to redeem!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • josh

      There will be no religion in heaven just us and the Creator of the universe!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:24 am |
  13. Esteban

    The end comes when the lights go out.

    As in, religion is personal, so death in itself is a rapture. Mr. Hawking said the other day that there was no heaven or hell, who we going to believe? This guy or that guy? I don't know.

    Judgement day, rapture etc, is added incentive to turn the other cheek. And religion's OG purpose was to promote societal living, so having something to say, such as, "I've got my place in heaven, he'll get caught up by the rapture." Prevents somebody from slapping the other person in the face.

    Rapture-Smapture. There's going to be a lot of unhappy Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist, and Baptist (are they really Christian?) if Jesus's short bus only takes Christians to heaven.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  14. Bill

    It seems that is you state that the lord is coming back to earth and you give a specific date, you are a crackpot; if you don't give a date them you are rational and sane. Yet, both share the same ridiculous belief.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  15. erik

    lol at our heaven. You weak minded people really think we are wrong and you are right, terrible, damned heathens.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  16. truth2power

    These so called "Christians" bring to mind this quote.
    "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians, they are so unlike your Christ."
    -Ghandi

    May 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  17. god=myth

    We don't need Harold Camping and his false predictions to show that the Bible is BS. Talking snakes, living inside of whales bodies for days, piling millions of animals into one boat, and walking on water are sufficient. If you believe this nonsense... well, you might be a little retarded 😉

    May 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • not exactly

      A little? haha

      May 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Nat

      Let's not use the word retarded as an insult

      May 17, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Indigo

      If you are one of the people that can't accept it in its literal sense, then try to reread it and look for the symbolism behind all the things written in these stories.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • josh

      its been proven that humans can survive in a whale for a couple of days

      May 18, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • Frogist

      @josh: Really? I hadn't heard this. Could you provide a link to some proof of what you say? I'd love to read it. Thanks!
      @Indigo: I see what you are saying. That has always been my view on biblical stories. The trouble comes when people try to interpret that symbolism. We will each reach a different conclusion based on our personal viewpoint. That does not make for a coherent singular message, especially one that we can extol as absolute correct truth.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  18. not exactly

    To be read in a British accent:

    God: "Jesus Christ! What on earth is that?!"
    Jesus: "Don't take my name in vein, dad."
    God: "Jeesy Creesy, what on earth is that?"
    Jesus: "Don't call me Jeesy Creesy! I told you!"

    May 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • DC-JD

      One of the greatest standups I have ever seen!!!

      One question, though...

      Do you have a flag? 😉

      May 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • lovin life

      "woo Im the holy ghost"
      oh i love that bit..

      May 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Frogist

      Holy Ghost, this is not an episode of Scooby Doo!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  19. erik

    What makes Christianity so crazy Colin? Teaching love? teaching to obey parents, teaching to respect your elders, teaching to be faithful to your husbands and wives, etc. Yeah Christianity is sure crazy! smh

    May 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • Colin

      Eric, none of that is either crazy or specific to Christianity. Christianity does not have a monopoly on morality. I am a complete atheist, but my personal moral code is virtually indistinguishable from that of a liberal Christian.

      What IS crazy is the supernatural nonsense that goes along with it.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • Artist

      erik

      What makes Christianity so crazy Colin? Teaching love? teaching to obey parents, teaching to respect your elders, teaching to be faithful to your husbands and wives, etc. Yeah Christianity is sure crazy! smh

      ===================
      No that does not make you crazy and the bible was not first to think of the concepts you typed. This is why:
      .

      Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, to have normal emotional responses, and to behave normally in social situations.
      As the illness continues, psychotic symptoms develop:
      • False beliefs or thoughts that are not based in reality (delusions)
      • Hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not there (hallucinations)

      May 17, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  20. Michael

    I will take my chances that Camping is incorrect, 2000 years of "any day now".

    May 17, 2011 at 5:25 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.