Scripture Reading: Matthew 24: 36-44: The Day and Hour Unknown
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Most of you have read or seen on television, that a group associated with Family Radio Worldwide is predicting that Christ will return to earth on Saturday, May 21st to gather believers into heaven. Harold Camping, a retired civil engineer, said recently, “Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment.” Mr. Camping had predicted that the Rapture would take place back in 1994, but his followers claim that he was only referring to the end of the “church age.” Camping says that he has formulated a mathematical system to uncover hidden prophecies in the Bible.
Jesus’ disciples were curious about when the end of time would come and we read in Matthew chapter 24, that as Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
And Matthew 24:4-8 tells us that Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” And then in Matthew 24:14, Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” This is a missionary mandate from Jesus that this “testimony to all nations” must take place before the end of time will come.
The Zondervan NIV study bible notes from Matthew say that, “a specific outline of the future would be a hindrance, not a help, to faith. Certain signs have been given, but not for the purpose of making detailed sequential predictions.” Mr. Camping is certainly making a type of calculating prediction based on something that he says that he has read in the bible. I wonder how well he has read the entire bible. No, I wonder if he has ever read Matthew chapter 24, or Mark chapter 13, or Luke chapter 17. These gospels tell us that no man or woman can possibly know the exact date that Christ will return. Not even the angels in heaven know the time of Christ’s return.
I also worry about the effect that this careless prediction will have on those that are unbelievers. What will they think when this date passes and Christ does not return to earth. Unfortunately, most people outside of the faith may not even realize that this is not a mainstream Christian group. “When we engage in this kind of wild speculation, it’s irresponsible,” said the Rev. Daniel Akin, president of the Southeastern Baptist Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. “It can do damage to naive believers who can be easily caught up and it runs the risk of causing the church to receive sort of a black eye.”
Christ could return on May 21, 2011 or he could return in 2012 or Christ could return 500 years from now. Christ tells us that it is not for us to know the exact time of his return. What Christ does tell us is that we should be busy telling others about the faith that we as believers, have in Jesus Christ. As followers of Jesus we should be following the advice of Jesus from Matthew, chapter 25:34-40. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Instead of trying to predict Christ’s return, we as followers, need to be following the plain, specific teaching of Jesus on how to do the work he has called us to while we are on this earth. If we are busy doing that, we won’t have time to wonder or speculate, when Christ is going to return. The last words of Jesus, before he ascended into heaven from Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Sources used: AJC.com, AP article by Tom Breen, May 18,2011
Zondervan NIV Study Bible, page 1554