Rapture Prediction Provides Food for Thought

May 19, 2011 / by / 11 Comments

By Jennifer Willis
Communications Staff

“Judgment Day Is Coming! The Rapture: May 21, 2011.”

No, it’s not a teaser for the next Will Smith blockbuster. It’s a billboard at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Camelback Road. Maybe you’ve seen it or one like it. They’ve popped up in cities around the country, proclaiming this Saturday as the day life on Earth as we know it will cease to exist. 

May 21 is the date that Harold Camping, president of the California-based Family Radio Network, has said will coincide with the Rapture — when all are judged by God and those who are worthy will be taken away and saved. Those who aren’t saved, Camping says, will be left behind on Earth to suffer before the world ends in October. (Family Radio Network is not to be confused with Family Life Radio, which does not endorse Camping’s prediction.)

While it seems easy to mock people predicting the end of the world, Campus Pastor Tim Griffin says Christians shouldn’t be critical of them. The Bible does talk about redemption and the remaking of the world, and it also talks about what those final days will be like.

What is risky and foolish, Griffin says, is when people begin to name a specific date and time. He cites the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:36 (NIV): “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Throughout history, there have been people claiming to know when the world will end. Griffin says it usually happens in times of turmoil represented by economic strife, tensions of war and natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.

“People begin to ask God if these things are a precursor of what is to come,” he says. “But while the Bible gives us hints as to what the end of days might be like, there is no way we can know or predict when that day will be.”

GCU English Professor Jim Helfers agrees.

“Doomsday predictions are not new,” he says. “In times of chaos and natural disaster, people tend to look for an explanation.”

Helfers notes that World Wars I and II stirred considerable end-of-the-world speculation, as did Y2K.

“And Christians aren’t the only ones,” he says. “Most cultures have some sort of apocalyptic idea. Humans tend to think of history as very linear with a beginning, middle and an end.”

But why is so much media attention given to predictions when the Bible clearly tells us that we can’t know?

Helfers thinks it comes down to a fascination with disaster and the end of things. It’s why we watch movies such as “Independence Day” and “Armageddon” and turn them into multimillion-dollar blockbusters.

“People also have a tendency to look to the past as being better than the now,” he says. “Greek mythology and legend refers to four or five Ages of Man, in which the first age is Golden followed by the Silver, Bronze and Iron Ages — and then the present, a period of decline.”

Another explanation could be a fascination with basic world-view questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? There seems to be a never-ending search for hidden meanings and conspiracy theories.

Philosophy and Christian Studies Professor Sanjay Merchant says that those looking for hidden meanings in the Bible raise red flags.

“Camping himself has admitted that the average everyday Bible reader would not be able to figure this out,” Merchant says. “He claims to have been given some divine revelation allowing him to be able to read between the lines and decipher this date.

“But I would like to point out that God gave us the Bible for understanding, not to confuse or hide things in. To claim that there are hidden meanings that only a select few can understand with divine revelation is arrogant and insulting to God. It’s like calling God deceptive and a liar.”

It’s best to be prepared for the world’s end, Helfers says, but not preoccupied by it.

“If you are ready, then it doesn’t matter if the end is May 21, 2011, or if it is 10 years from now,” he says.

What about those who believe in the May 21 date but are still here on May 22?

Merchant hopes that they don’t become spiritually disillusioned, thinking God has let them down.

“Clear-thinking Bible readers need to walk them through the Bible and help them come to terms with the parts of the (Camping) prediction that were weird and didn’t make much sense,” he says. “Christians need to rely on each other and help each other look for future red flags such as lone guns like Camping.”

Griffin says such forecasts can provide a wakeup call even for those who don’t put stock in them.

“Let’s live our lives and focus on more reliable things,” he says. “There’s always a chance that men will let us down and the promises of human beings will fail. But God’s promises will never fail. So keep your eyes on Jesus and live every day to the fullest.”

Reach Jennifer Willis at 639.7383 or Jennifer.willis@gcu.edu.

About the Author
11 Responses
  1. Barbara Lasiter

    Amen, God never lets any of us down, nor will He ever to the end of time.

    May.19.2011 at 11:26 am
  2. Jim Helfers

    Actually, I’d like to add that humans tend to look at time in one of two ways–either cyclically or linearly. The Greeks seem to have seen time as cyclical, like the seasons. The ages of humanity idea expresses this sort of cyclical thinking.

    But Judeo/Christian/Islamic culture tends to see time more linearly. Each person is born, matures, and finally dies. That works for cultures as well, and the Bible indicates that such is the case for the cosmos as a whole.

    May.19.2011 at 11:49 am
  3. David Jackson

    If ye are prepared ye shall not fear…..walking the walk in preparation for the second comming of Christ is the only way to not worry about it…..if it comes this Saturday, great! If it happens 30 years from now……the same preparation is what is needed……be still and know that he is God…..and trust him it will all turn out ok!

    May.19.2011 at 12:00 pm
  4. Anissa

    I’m in agreement with the professors and Pastor Tim. We might not know when God is coming to take His people home, but we do know that we need to be ready. The Bible speaks of what signs of the time will be like when the end is near, however God does not need us to interpret them. All we have to do, like everyone else said, is stay in prayer, make our hearts right with God every day and not let mankind sway us in any way. :) Very thought-provoking article!

    May.19.2011 at 12:02 pm
  5. Oscar Crawford, FTF CWV

    Truth observed is always a relative perception. Truth articulate is always a relative projection. The appreciation of personal supernatural revelation is always a challenge to communicate such that others can experience the same perception. From the moment of the ascension, people have been looking to the sky for Jesus to break through to remedy our human condition and the experience of it. Occasionally, some believe they have a glimpse of supernatural reality and out of love for the rest of us, they experience an overwhelming need to share it with the rest of us. It is a prompt of the gospel, “Run, go tell somebody.”

    Recommendation: Always appreciate the gift of life. It is a gift beyond understanding and to be appreciated. Live and love like you a running out of time. It is a fact, you really are whether this Saturday or whenever the appointed time for you comes.

    Love and Blessing to each and all,

    Professor “O”

    May.19.2011 at 12:27 pm
  6. Tom Richard

    Jim says “… it doesn’t matter if the end is May 21, 2011, or if it is 10 years from now.” Or even in 10 sec………..

    May.19.2011 at 12:37 pm
  7. Amanda

    Do people realise that their ridiculous predictions SCARE people, and YES even Christians, people are selling off everything they own and children of all people are starting to be scared also….not only is this horrible to predict because again IT SHOULDNT BE PREDICTED but it is horrible to post all over websites to frighten people…..btw this MAN OF GOD for lesser words MADE THIS SAME PREDICTION in the 1980’s or 1990’s and yeah he was wrong then too

    May.19.2011 at 2:21 pm
  8. Brooke

    I don’t agree with Camper’s prediction at all. I believe Jesus’ words in Matthew when he said that no one knows the day or the hour. Isn’t Camper the same person who predicted the world would end in September 1994? Someone told me this earlier today, and I thought it was interesting.

    May.19.2011 at 2:37 pm
  9. Carrie

    My young grandhildren were afraid until I told them to get their selves in order. In other words read their Bibles and pray. The Good Book tells us that no one knows the day or hour not even the angels so if they don’t know why would we know or more specifically one man who has done this before. It sounds more like the little boy who cried wolf to get attention. Also the Bible tells us to beware of FALSE PROPHETS.

    May.19.2011 at 3:24 pm
  10. Sam

    Odd…I always thought time just went on. That people, eras and nations died only to replenish and complete an ever spinning circle. As noted above, the cyclical nature of thought seems to apply itself more than linear…look at the eras and periods of our world, they did not just end, something always followed. Personally… I see this as a ploy for attention and a means to strike fear and uncertainty on hearts already discontented by economic woes.


    May.19.2011 at 3:50 pm
  11. Martin Braatelien

    Mr. Camping is obviously a false prophet who discredits the Word of God and embarrasses Christians everywhere.

    However, I can’t help but draw many parallels between his doomsday predictions of May 21, 2011 with the predictions of many popular evangelical teachers of today who espouse premillenial dispensationalism. Numerous pastors preach of the “rapture” and its dependence on current events in Israel. They insist that Christ can not return until certain prophesies (which they need to clarify for us) in the Middle East are realized. With cryptic and obscure Biblical references in one hand, and the newspaper in the other, these prominent teachers proclaim they have end time events all figured out.

    Can someone help me understand how Harlod Camping differs from John Haggee, Tim La Haye and Hal Lindsey?

    May.20.2011 at 10:03 am
Leave a Comment