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. starsandstripes

    It cannot happen. My teenage daughter has been grounded for the next week for being sassy!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Ashley M

      I hear ya! this is all stupid who is going to beleive an 89 year old man? He claims to know this "Doomsday" happening, please even the angels dont even know when the world is going to come to an end.

      May 20, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  2. Barry

    To say that most exegetes do not believe in the second coming is incorrect.

    They may have a different understanding of what this meant, or how it was understood or processed by the early Christians–but it is hardly correct to say that they don’t believe in it.

    Are you aware of what an exegete is or what the work of exegesis entails?

    May 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  3. Roger

    All this is a perfect reason to be an Atheist...

    "I like your Christ...What I don't like are the Christians which are so unlike your Christ" – Gandhi

    May 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  4. sagar

    What if the world does not end. ( which I know it will not happen) then who is responsible to misleading people

    May 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Bob

      Maybe Jesus does return on Saturday, only to find no one he really cares to take back to Heaven with him, and so everything remains as it is.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  5. Bob

    "The Rapture" is a lunkheaded, literalist interpretation of an important parable. Just as everyone has their personal "end time", each one dying after another throughout history, the "second coming of Christ" is likewise a personal event. Some people will "meet Jesus" in heart & mind, others will not. If this isn't as exciting as "the Rapture", then maybe it's time to grow up.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  6. Barry


    Are you aware that not all Christians reject science, mathematics, evolution, history, etc.?

    May 18, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • RHDK

      I am sir and my post in no way pinpointed "Christians" in general.I was brought up christian and believe in science and evolution as the source of our creation. I was clearly stating the earths timeline as a refection of someone's else's post about JC coming back and brining the Dino's with him. I don't think JC knew what the hell a Dino was, being they never spoke of them and the first Dino wasn't discovered until 1600-1800's

      May 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  7. sparkles

    Jesus told us take heed in the last days do not be deceived, many of the elect will be deceived, there will arise false teachers, false prophets etc, Jesus said: no one knows the hour or day of his coming not even the angels only the father. I do not believe for one minute this doomsday as they so call it is going to happen on that day. yes, we are to watch the signs which is happening all over the world they are just birth pains happening now but the worst is yet to come. the end is not yet for ONLY THE FATHER KNOWS...Jesus said: he will come like a thief in the night as fast as lightening..BE READY ALWAYS... MAY 21st...PLEASE DO NOT BE DISEIVED!!!!!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • Reality

      Jesus supposedly said a lot of things which brings us to the following analysis:

      Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

      Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospels being mostly fiction.

      Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, and raptures and old, European, white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  8. Barry

    Since the earliest days of the Christian Church there have been differing views about various matters. Some (like the Christians at Antioch) interpreted the Scripture literally, while others (like the Christians at Alexandria) interpreted them figuratively or allegorically.

    The Christians even had differing views regarding matters at the very heart of Christianity, such as the nature of Christ. Some held the view of Arius, regarding the nature of Christ, while others held the view of Athanasius. (Incidentally both groups believed that Jesus was the son of God, but they had different ideas about what this meant.)

    The early Ebonite Christians had an adoptionist view, regarding the nature of Christ.

    These issues of interpretation did not end with the Council of Nicea (early fourth century) either. The Church continued to have differing ideas up to and beyond the time of the Reformation Movement of the mid sixteenth century.

    Will the world come to an end on May 21, 2011?

    Personally I remember what Jesus said about this and take what he said to be the answer:
    “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
    (Matthew 24:36)

    There was one thing the Church has always agree upon, however; and, that was the there will be a judgment day, that the Day of Judgment is coming, and it will come “like a thief in the night”.

    So be prepared always!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Reality

      What else do we know:

      1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

      2. Asteroids continue to whiz by us daily.

      3. One large hit and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

      4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

      5. Most contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture. Paul "profitized" that the JC would return in Paul's life time. Obviously, Paul was wrong yet again.)

      Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  9. donny

    well if you read the bible you would know that no man knows when that day is coming not even jesus..no one but the father knows that hour.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  10. RHDK

    I hate doing this, it may not be 100% correct, but pretty close, it was pieced together from the net and wikipedia
    but for the most part, life was here long before Jesus or "the 6 days of creation", don't let these guys fool your hearts, love your children, friends and family and don't leave them to follow Harold this Saturday! On Sunday lets start discussing getting off this damned planet and start evolving humankind into space already!, where is where I bet the egyptians thought we would be by now with their incredible abilities...

    65 million B.C.: Dinosaurs wiped out
    18 million B.C. Ice Age Ended
    2 million B.C. Cavemen happened
    1.5 million B.C. The wheel was invented
    1500-1000 B.C: Humans are breeding and farming
    600 B.C: Egyptians make mummies
    5 B.C: Jesus born in Nazareth
    96 A.D.: Pompeii
    1002: Leif Erickson explores North America

    May 18, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Buddah2112

      Pink Floyd played @ Pompeii. Careful With That Axe Eugene!

      May 18, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • Kay

      This assumes that we can actually carbon date 65 billion years back. How the heck do we have a reference for that? We don't. I'm not sure I believe the world is only 6000 years old, but I sure as heck don't believe it's in the billions.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Artist


      This assumes that we can actually carbon date 65 billion years back. How the heck do we have a reference for that? We don't. I'm not sure I believe the world is only 6000 years old, but I sure as heck don't believe it's in the billions.
      I have to admit I always found that interesting how it was calculated?? What facinates me is how vast the universe is when they say something is 500 million light years away. On the other end if someone is looking at our reflection they could be seeing dinasours now. Just really puts in persepctive how irrelevent we are. I fyou just look at odds there has to be other intelligent life, more than us perhaps out there. Perhaps they are our creators and have since moved on....might take a while for them to get back home lol

      May 19, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  11. Buddah2112

    His Take: May 21st doomsday movement harms Christianity.
    My Take: Christianity movement harms humanity.

    You Tube: George Carlin...Religion

    May 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Rob

      I loved George Carlin. I saw him in his prime. But you have to admit the guy turned into a bitter, cynical old man. Looking to an old, bitter, cynical old man for your world view is clearly very unwise. About as unwise as looking to Charlie Sheen for answers.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Buddah2112

      Cynical=Truth. Bite me.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Buddah2112

      Charlie Sheen...Change the channel. Ashton Kutcher...Change the channel. No parallel. World view...Learn to read between the lines. Stop taking yourself and Theology/Fantasy too seriously. Have A Nice Day...It may be your last.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Buddah2112

      Have A Nice Day...It may be your last. Think about that in traffic as you slam on your brakes and give someone the New Jersey salute. Breathe...Just as Pink Floyd suggests. Take your time.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  12. Christie MilkBone

    Some people know the world is coming to END because.....
    1. Bad Economy
    2. Earthquakes
    3. Bad people
    4. More accidents
    5. unemployment
    6. too many married men committed adultery
    7. too many high paid athletes, politicians ,and unions.
    8. too many criminals
    9. too many liars
    10. too many hypocrites.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • CC

      And this week is different how?

      May 18, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • ZooeyMama

      Everything on your list has been with us since the beginning of organized societies. The Romans, Greeks, Mayans all complained about the same thing.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Einstein

      And so it has always been.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Johnny B

      @Christie MilkBone
      Some people know the world is coming to END because.....
      1. Bad Economy
      2. Earthquakes
      3. Bad people
      4. More accidents
      5. unemployment
      6. too many married men committed adultery
      7. too many high paid athletes, politicians ,and unions.
      8. too many criminals
      9. too many liars
      10. too many hypocrites.

      One of the signs of the rapture is "too many high paid athletes, politicians, and unions."? Don't remember that quote in the bible. So God will release plague, famine, disasters, false prophets, the NBA, NFL and AFL-CIO upon the world? Sounds more like self righteous ramblings than actual knowledge of biblical scripture.

      May 18, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Eddie

      Yea the worlds gonna end because the NFL lockout...

      May 19, 2011 at 1:13 am |
    • apingos

      too many unions, really!

      May 19, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • Charles Carver

      How many, is too many? Is there an equation?

      May 23, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  13. Sir Craig

    Gotta say, Doomsday prophets are probably the least of Christianity's worries. Logic, reason, and evidence are definitely bigger threats to fables and myths. (Famous Martin Luther quote: "Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has.") What surprises me is WHY this pastor would think apocalyptic prophesies are harmful to religion. Religion dwells almost exclusively on what is going to happen to you after this life. "Don't do this or you'll burn in Hell!" The whole notion of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc. is the belief that what you do in the here and now is going to forever shape your afterlife. Death and endtimes are all religion have in order to keep the sheep in line.

    Maybe the pastor is finally doing the "outside looking in" thing and realizing how silly religion looks to the rest of us non-believers.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • lills

      He's probably saying that it’s harming religion because there are so few people practicing; this fiasco will make sure even fewer bother to try.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Einstein

      Sorry but Judaism doesn't believe in either heaven or hell.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Rob

      Correction: responsible religion focuses at least half their efforts on the here and now (acts of service and ministry to others). I would have agreed with your comments about religion being full of myths a few years ago. Then I got to see and know Jesus.... then I read the Bible. I can honestly say that once people read the Bible for themselves, all of it, and discuss it with others, it would be hard not to believe.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  14. Markus L. Lange

    So much anger. Why can't we all just get along! No but seriously, I have a Question. Is it that you don't believe that Jesus was the Son of God and that the God of the Christian Bible is the true God or do you not believe in any creation or any "higher" power or any afterlife. I'm not trying to be sarcastic, just curious. Thanks

    May 18, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  15. cj

    If it does not happen another excuse will be made. Meanwhile the ones pushing Armageddon will scatter like flies.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  16. Bảy

    I am well prepared, ... for a good laugh!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  17. LB

    --Dont wait-jump off the flat edge of the earth and save yourself!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  18. Jesus C.

    everybody on the east coast!!! grab your straws!!! im going skinny dipping tonight!!! Atlantic Ocean will turn into Atlantico Rum!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Buddah2112

      I thought it was Wine...not Rum...

      May 18, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • Mariozng


      May 18, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  19. C

    Man has a tendency to destroy himself through nuclear arms, ruining the environment and countless other ways. We don't need wackos like Camping and his goofs telling us when that will happen. So what happens when this doesn't occur......another Jim Jones scenario? He and all his "desciples" need to insitutionalized immediately.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Lady Sarcasma

      Absolutely agreed. I find it laughable that a person who claims to be "of the Lord" would make claims that are completely against the scripture he claims to be representing. This is the reason so many have no interest in Christianity.

      My blog (unrelated)- http://www.messofthedamned.org/ladysarcasma/

      May 18, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  20. Jesus C.

    I picked 6PM for a reason guys..... SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS!..... glad i created the guy who created that song. love it!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Zoe

      WOO! Can't wait 😀 We can invite Lucifer, too! I heard he's awesome. That man knows how to throw a party.

      May 18, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • James Wright

      MAYBE You'll Get Shot At 6pm who knows

      May 18, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
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About this blog

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.