By Jerry Newcombe
Oh brother, it happened again.
Another false prophet—dare I say that?—predicted exactly when Christ was supposedly coming again, even though Jesus Himself said that no man knows the hour of His return, including Himself.
From the early days of the Church to the present day, hundreds of millions of Christians have affirmed, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”
But now a modern group tried to fear people into thinking they know when Jesus is coming. May 21, 2011 was the day, supposedly, of Christ’s “secret” rapture.
The latest prophets of doom managed to get their message out in an expensive series of billboards and bus ads. In my humble opinion: What a waste of money and what a mockery they made of people’s faith. (If the message said simply Judgment Day is coming—get ready to meet your Maker, then I would whole-heartedly endorse that message. It’s the specific date that was the problem.)
Before the event, I said this: “Do I think Judgment Day is coming on May 21? Well, let’s talk it over, on May 22!”
Since the return of Christ didn’t happen May 21, these people have changed the date to October 21, 2011.
Who are “these people”?
The main leader is Harold Camping, who has a network of Christian radio stations. You would think he would be gun shy about setting a date for Christ’s return.
He wrote a book about it, predicting that 1994 would be the year. I own a copy of his book explaining the details. It’s called 1994.
Another man predicted that Jesus would return in 1988, and he listed 88 reasons for it.
But you can always tell that such predictions are wrong. Why? Because they are specific.
With all due respect, how do I know that these people are always wrong? The fact that they’re setting a date in the first place violates what Jesus said.
In Matthew’s Gospel, He said about His return: “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” (24:36-37).
I’m tempted to say to these people who give a specific date—like May 21, 2011—What part of “no” as in “no man knows the hour” don’t you understand?
I even read one such prophet who essentially said—with a straight face: Christ didn’t tell us the day or the hour of His return, but that doesn’t mean we can’t know the year, the month, or the week!
It’s tragic to me that the watching world looks at such predictions that come and go and just laugh, justifiably so, at those who think Christ will return one day.
I am as sure of the return of Jesus Christ to planet earth some day, as I am that the sun will rise tomorrow.
But I have no idea when, nor will I engage in speculation based on “jigsaw theology.”
Jigsaw theology is when you cobble a Bible verse over here with a Bible verse over there to create some sort of timeline for the Second Coming.
The group that has made the May 21, 2011 prediction says this: “The Bible has opened up its secrets concerning the timeline of history. This information was never previously known because God had closed up His Word blocking any attempt to gain knowledge of the end of the world.”
But now they knew, supposedly.
A friend of mine noted this is like modern day Gnosticism.
The Gnostics were an early Church heresy that got the basics of the faith wrong. They claimed that the way of salvation was not Christ crucified, for sinners died and raised from the dead, but rather some sort of secret knowledge.
People have been wrong often throughout Church history as to the return of Christ.
Many were convinced that Jesus would come in AD 1000, so they sold everything and went to Rome and waited. And waited.
Others sold everything they had and waited for Christ to return in America in the 1840s. And waited. The Seventh Day Adventist denomination was born out of that experience.
When Hitler was alive, some people thought he was the Anti-Christ. Can you blame them? But they were wrong.
Through the ages, even otherwise-wise servants of Christ have made the mistake of predicting a specific date of the end of the world. Included in this category are Christopher Columbus, Sir Isaac Newton, and Cotton Mather.
How come we keep repeating this same mistake? I’m reminded of the little poem by British poet Steve Turner: “History repeats itself. It has to. No one is listening.”
Jerry Newcombe is the senior producer and host of The Coral Ridge Hour. He has also written or co-written 21 books, including The Book That Made America: How the Bible Formed Our Nation. Jerry co-wrote (with Dr. Peter Lillback) the bestselling, George Washington’s Sacred Fire. He hosts the website www.jerrynewcombe.com. Jerry wrote a book, now out of print, called Coming Again, but When? (Cook, 1999). Used copies of this book are likely available on-line for a nominal fee.