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. J

    If only the rapture would take not just the Christians but the rest of the theists as well. Leave the rest of us– the doctors, the scientists, the professors–to strive for peace without the ball and chain of religion holding humanity back.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Jesus H Christ


      May 18, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Ken

      LOL. So all those that believe in a diety are war mongers! What a hoot. Just reflect back on New Orleans during Katrina for typical human behavior when left alone. Prior to Christianity, the mob ruled, nations went to war to conquer. There wasn't even hospitals until Christianity began. You wouldn't even be a doctor without theisits.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Mike in SA

      Weird...I know many doctors, scientists, and professors who are Christian.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Free

      New Orleans was a looters heaven because the police, the ones actually keeping all those fine Christians in line, were not at their posts during Katrina.

      Hippocrates, the Greek credited with the hippocratic oath that doctors take, practiced medicine a good 500 years before Jesus.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • tuffgong71

      What does Katrina have to do with it? Those weren't Christians? Statistics suggest that the majority of people "misbehaving" during Katrina aftermath were Christians. Christians couldn't be hawking war mongers? Crusades? Bush administration?

      May 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Mrs.B

      When Europeans were burning mentally ill people at the stake for witchcraft, Islamic doctors had already identified and described over 100 distinct psychiatric illnesses and established the first Psychiatric hospitals. While Europeon women died during childbirth in droves, Islamic scholars had already proposed that diseases and infections were caused by "tiny organisms" and had begun R&D in to antiseptics. Christians do not own compassion and humanity.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • user name

      Hippocrates would have worshiped Asclepius, Greek god of Medicine. Point being that medicine/healing was not made by atheists.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Free

      How could 'nations' go to war if the 'mob' ruled? Mobs aren't nations, are they?

      May 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • bettejodux

      Beautiful reply. As a secular humanist I'm tempted to fill a disc with trumpet sounds and drive around my island, Kauai, trumpets blaring. Maybe all the rapture nuts will be raptured off to somewhere else, anywhere else. I write a column-you call it a blog-here on Kauai. you can find me by looking for bettejo in your search. I also have a face book account. You might like my takes on this. Peace and love Bettejo

      May 18, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Dee

      Without Christ there is no peace, only Satan and turmoil.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  2. mizsherle

    Didn't there used to be a "like" option on CNN comments?

    May 18, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  3. Fast Fred

    This only applies to Christians. All other religious belief systems and atheists are safe, and of course so are the guys at the space station .

    May 18, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  4. again?

    "The folly of Interpreters has been, to foretell times and things by this Prophecy, as if God designed to make them Prophets. By this rashness they have not only exposed themselves, but brought the Prophecy also into contempt.
    The design of God was much otherwise. He gave this and the Prophecies of the Old Testament, not to gratify mens curiosities by enabling them to foreknow things, but that after they were fulfilled they might be interpreted by the event, and his own Providence, not the Interpreters, be then manifested thereby to the world" -Issac Newton

    Simply put, this only serves to discredit real Christianity and thus is one of the worse things possible to do. This is not a game.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  5. Dave S

    Mr Jeffress is spot on. :)See ya'll in Church Sunday the 22nd...

    May 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  6. yagna dave

    accept good teachings of bilble for humanity..such as peace, love, not committing cardinal sins....rather just brag ...follow jesus and he is your saviour....saviours came in many ways and forms at differnet times and ages...all they wanted to do duing that time was save humanity and only One can be called Supreme Lord, is one who releases us from bondage of life and death... and not fixates us on worldly pleasures

    May 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  7. Mary

    I hope they all remember to stick a roll of quarters in their pockets and wear clean sneakers!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  8. Greg s

    Amazing, Here we have a Preacher telling it like it is on CNN, Im just amazed! Unfortunately these folks have hitched there faith to Harald Campings wagon, There not strong enough in there belief to check it out for themselves, Which the Bible instructs us all to do, Never take another mans word on scripture, Read it for yourself so you wont be led astray.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  9. Theodore

    Yeah, right... This is supposed to be the "sane" response to biblical claims of the end of the world?

    May 18, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  10. Mary

    Me on May 22nd singing an old rock tune:" I got stoned and I missed it, I got stoned and I missed it, I got stoned and it rolled right by-y-y-! Oh me, oh, my!"

    May 18, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  11. yagna dave

    world clock is ticking for ev eryone, including all divine persons born on this mortal earth. so in a way Judgement day will come for everyone, one day, why worry about may 21st. Present Earth and Solar system will live their full life of 64 billion years and we have just crossed half way mark.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  12. Kevin Erskine

    I hope it does end 5-21, the sooner the better.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  13. Marie M. From Florida

    please Mr Jeffress you need to go back to the book of Matthew and start to read again the chapter 24, May God have Mercy on you

    May 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • you Idiot


      May 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  14. cheryl

    I believe this all started once Oprah said she was moving on...

    May 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  15. Jeff

    The biggest evidence that he's a fake is that, according to God, true prophets will be 100% correct about every smallest detail. If they are wrong or falsely predict on even the tiniest detail, then they are a false prophet. True prophets will not make any mistakes. And since Harold Camping incorrectly predicted 1994 as the end of the world, he has forever labeled himself as a false prophet, he can't ever be take seriously, and the Bible is crystal clear on this.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  16. ZooeyMama

    And here is the awesome part about this – this morning I asked my kids what they wanted to do over the weekend. My son said "why? the world is ending on Saturday." I asked him, who told you this? He said that one of his classmates told him this and that it was in the bible. What a great teaching moment. I told him that his classmate was an idiot and that the world would not end. My son said then said, but it says so in the Bible. So I said, "I guarantee you that the world will not end on Saturday. So lets see if I am right or the Bible." Once the world fails to end on Saturday, my son will be forever cured of believing these fairy tales. On the downside, he may just start thinking that I am God.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • outofideas

      I am not sure telling your son someone else is an "idiot" is the best way to make use of a teaching moment.

      May 20, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  17. Yup

    I agree! Christianity already does plenty to harm itself already!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  18. Javier Mercado

    It's a shame when some idiot thinks he's got GOD figured out and more of a shame when people blindly follow him. But it does most harm to the the general public because they don't know who to believe. For the first time in the history of the world, the majority of the true Bible prophecy experts agree that we are the generation that is going to see the return of Jesus for his church (bride). But common people who don't read, much less study the Bible, don't know who to follow and, worst still, put everyone into a "fanatical" category. Jesus plainly stated in Matthew 24:5 & 6, " For many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet." And as for his return for the church (bride) he stated: "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." Matthew 25:13. So now we have this false prophet who says it's on the 22. (?) A generation is 40 years. We indeed are either in the end times or very close to it. The next step is the return of Jesus within our generation, but I garauntee you it's not this month. What will this false prophet do when the day comes and goes and nothing happens? Even more important, what will his followers, who left family and jobs to follow this clown around, do to him when the 22 comes and goes and nothing happens? What to do? (1) Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and repent of your sins, (2) Get actively involved in a Bible-based church, (3) Read and study the Bible everyday, (4) Read and study Christan prohpets who are experts and know how to correctly interpret the Bible. Want some names? Grant Jeffreys, Hal Linsey & Tim La Haye. (5) Don't believe every idiot who claims they know when Jesus will return or the end of the world. God Bless You and see you on the 23rd!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Bob

      "Want some names? Grant Jeffreys, Hal Linsey & Tim La Haye" - You must mean "true prophets interpret for true profits".

      May 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • pat carr

      "Read and study Christan prohpets who are experts and know how to correctly interpret the Bible. Want some names? Grant Jeffreys, Hal Linsey & Tim La Haye"

      LMAO. Those hucksters?

      May 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Latriece

      Amen Brother! I stand in agreement with you. I shall see you in the Rapture....after the first trumpet sound

      May 18, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Javier, I hear you! What this kind of teaching is doing, it's such a damaging thing . But I also have to say that the men you mentioned are not doing God's people favor, because they themselves are teaching a pre-tribulation rapture, which is in no way teaching of the world of God. Lord Jesus Christ has no secret rapture for his bride, the church....How do they miss what Paul said in 2 Thess. 2:2-5, it's a mystery! But other then that, I love to listen to Hal Lindsey... There are few like him, who will speak the truth without sugarcoating it....

      May 18, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      It's NOT at the sound of the first trumpet, but THE LAST! See 1Corinthians 15:52. Make sure you read also verses around ... The mystery is NOT the rapture, it's the hidden, unknown thing that was never before seen nor witnessed by any man: the changing of mortal into immortal . Read this:

      "For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed..keep reading further. What today's teachers hav done, they have made the mystery Paul talked about a "secret rapture"! and they are wrong. People of God need to hear this message, because satan loves nothing more than keep people of God fooled, so when his "Man" comes on the scene, many will not recognize him, since they think there is no way they'll be here to see him comming in the flesh. I hope you and others here who believe this error, will really take a good look at what has been taught to you to believe!

      May 18, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  19. Avi Shlomo

    I can't wait for the day to materialize but that is fantasy. It would be a great day that the Christians that brought us the inquistion and the state of Israel leave. Please make sure that the good Christians stay so we can have peace with the Muslims .

    May 18, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  20. ZooeyMama

    The world will end on May 21 for about 156,000 people around the world. That is the average number of people who die every day. So if you are one of the 156k, your time is almost up. For the rest of us, lets go grab a cold one.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Mary


      May 18, 2011 at 5:54 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.