Saturday, May 21, 2011

Crying wolf . . . again

The rapture will take place today. That’s according to Harold Camping, a preacher from Oakland, California. His followers, from Family Radio Worldwide, have preached that the end times will take place this year, and they have spent huge amounts of money on extensive advertising campaigns, bus tours and thousands of billboards.

As usual, many mainstream Christians have responded by saying that this is all bunk, that “no one knows the exact hour or day” of Jesus' return. This response is quite strange to me, as I've known many Christians who believe that Jesus will come back in their own lifetimes. In fact, I once attended a youth summer camp where one speaker was convinced that we were the “Joshua generation” and that we would be the ones to witness Jesus’ return. If it is hubris to name the exact time and date of Jesus’ second coming, as Camping has done, isn’t it just as arrogant to name the decade or even the century?

But I wonder if all this Armageddon stuff isn't getting a bit old. For 2000 years Christians have been crying wolf, each generation believing - sometimes with absolute certainty - that they were the ones who would witness Jesus’ return before their deaths. In fact, Jesus himself seems to imply in Matthew 24:34 that the end times would happen within the lifetime of his disciples. But the reality is that, even after all these years, nothing has happened. It goes to show that no matter how certain you are about a specific belief, it doesn't mean that that belief is true.

Life will just go on as usual tomorrow; there will be no rapture. Believers at Family Radio call people like me ‘scoffers’ for saying that, but the problem doesn't lie with me; the problem lies with reality: it has a way of not aligning itself to people's beliefs, no matter how certain those beliefs might be.


CRL said...

Fittingly, there was a small earthquake near Oakland an hour after the world was supposed to end. I wonder if Family Radio will attempt to incorporate this into their excuse for the world still being here.

Anonymous said...

this has no relevance about this particular log. But I was wondering when did your beliefs change? Before you got married or after?

Anonymous said...


Sello Rasephei said...

Just a small correction. Jesus never said He will come back within the lifetime of His disciples, and He never said no such in Matthew 24:34. More importantly, Jesus doesn't have come back in your lifetime, you only need to die to meet Him. So you should be worried about what's going to come first: your death or Jesus.

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Sello

Good to hear from you again, and as always thanks for commenting.

I've just read through Matthew 24 and I must admit that I'm a little confused by your comment. The passage starts out with the disciples asking Jesus what the signs will be of his coming, the destruction of the temple, and the end of the age. He goes on to talk about false prophets, earthquakes, famines, the darkening of the sun, the falling of stars, the appearance of the sign of the Son of man, shaking heavenly bodies, wars and rumours of wars, etc, etc. I've heard Christians quoting these very words of Jesus when talking about the end times.

But in verse 34 Jesus says plainly (well, in the NIV, at least) that "this generation will certainly no pass away until these things have happened".

In other words, if I read this passage at face value, it seems that Jesus is saying that his disciplines should expect both the destruction of the temple and the end times to occur within their own lifetimes.

Maybe I missing something.

Kevin Parry said...

Anon wrote:
"But I was wondering when did your beliefs change? Before you got married or after?"

Hi Anon. Welcome! My beliefs changed before I got married.

Erin said...

The irony of the situation is that there was no rapture to speak of... and yet some people go on proclaiming that the rapture HAS HAPPENED: !!!

I think there's the smarter, coniving foxes out there used the idea of the rapture to make a bunch of money. The other pour souls who believed the rapture was due 21 May STILL believe it happened! Like this poor sod in his blog who claims the rapture indeed happened and that "few were taken" and that "few noticed". Look forward to the end of the world in October, folks! It's still on its way!

Now, I wonder why this guy thinks he's been left behind?! If he really does believe what he says, then he's been very gracious in accepting his damnation!


Sello Rasephei said...

Kevin, Jesus never said his disciples should expect his return during their lifetime. Jesus said "this generation will certainly no pass away until these things have happened". The question then becomes which generation was He referring to? If you are an atheist, then the generation He was talking to is the disciples, but then again you have verse 36 to ridicule. If you believe that Jesus referred to the disciples then I'll like you to reconcile verse 34 and 36, which you can't, except claim that Jesus lied about not knowing the day and the hour.

If you are a Christian, then you know exactly the generation that Jesus was referring to. Jesus had just mentioned a list of things that will happen in the end days, and had just warned people who would be living in that time against "anti-christs". Having listed all those things, then He said "this generation". Now, it doesn't take a scientist to know that those things have to happen before we can have "this generation". The next question then becomes: have those things Jesus listed occured? The answer is that not all of them! Which means we still don't yet have "this generation".

You can take this further, and you'll realise that these same disciples you claim were "this generation" also prophesied about the coming "generation" that Jesus referred to, which means they knew that Jesus wasn't referring to them specifically.

For you, the challenge is to prove that Jesus lied by claiming He doesn't know the day and the hour (v36), yet He said the disciples were "the generation" thereby He knew the day and the hour.

CRL said...

Erin: How would Jesus, son of an omniscient God, and presumably omniscient himself, not know when to expect the apocalypse? Maybe I'm missing something, but this seems to be pretty inconsistent with the rest of Christian theology.

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Sello

Thank you for your reply. I was thinking about your response yesterday and there are a few things that don't make sense to me. So I hope you can help out:

(1) As CRL has said above, don't Christians preach that God and Jesus are one? If this is the case, then how could Jesus *not know* when the exact day of the end times would occur, but God does? This doesn't make sense when one claims that Jesus was 100% God.

(2) If Jesus knew that the end times would occur in a future generation, then why didn't he say – in verse 36 – that no one would know the exact 'year', instead using the words 'day' and 'hour'? It seems his time scale here was a bit off. However, using words 'day' and 'hour' make sense if Jesus is indeed saying that the end times will occur within the lifetime of his disciples.

(3) If Jesus really meant a future generation, why didn't just say so? He could have simply said "future generation" instead of "this generation". It would have saved a lot of confusion.

Sello wrote:
For you, the challenge is to prove that Jesus lied by claiming He doesn't know the day and the hour (v36), yet He said the disciples were "the generation" thereby He knew the day and the hour.

But I can turn this argument around and ask how Jesus seems to definitely know that the end times *will not* occur in the lifetime of his disciples when he doesn't know the day and the hour.

Thanks again for your feedback; I really appreciate it.

Keep well.

Sello Rasephei said...

@CRL, your question has more to do with your understanding of the Trinity and how it works, rather than on the question of the apocalypse itself. It's like asking why the Holy Spirit doesn't have a body, or why didn't God the Father Himself die on the cross instead of Jesus. Nevertheless, it's proper to conclude the apocalypse confusion by saying that Jesus never set any date for His return and He never said He will return during the disciples' lifetimes.

On the Trinity, the bible says "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9), meaning Jesus is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent just as the Father is. But the bible teaches something very remarkable, it says "Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." (Phillipians 2:5-7). What this verse means is that Jesus made Himself nothing so He can glorify God and give Him the glory that He deserves, even though Jesus Himself was omniscient. The same way Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified and die for the sins of people, when atonement could have been received in a more reasonable way. The very fact that Jesus left heaven to come to earth as a human when He was God, is the best example of Jesus making Himself nothing. Remember that Jesus Himself had the ability to call angels from heaven to rescue Him from crucifixion, yet He didn't, so He can be nothing.

Sello Rasephei said...

@ Kevin,
I have already replied to CRL's question as an answer to your number 1.

2. As I said before, the disciples were not excluded from being "this generation", and had all those signs occured during their lifetime then they would have been the generation that sees the return of Jesus. So Jesus couldn't mention a specific generation, because the signs are what will determine the generation. If I were an atheist, I would question the probability of those signs occuring to determine if Jesus was just speculating or if He really knew that those things will ocur or not. After all, if those sings are never going to occur, then it would have been clear that Jesus didn't know what He was talking about. But if the signs are probable and can be seen and confirmed, then we know for a certain that when all of them occur then that generation that sees them all should be the generation that Jesus was referring to. So the question is: did the disciples see all those signs occur? The answer is no! So they are excluded because they didn't meet the requirements set by Jesus, and we do the same with all previous generations.

3. Jesus's use of "this generation" is not in doubt. "This" doesn't necessarily mean what you are looking at, or what's in front of you, especially when there is a context associated with "this". So the contecxt (in this case signs JEsus mentioned) are what determines the definition of "this".

By the way, I wrote a blog post on this issue, and I already addressed some of the issues:

CRL said...

I must admit, I do find the idea of the Holy Trinity to be somewhat of a paradox in its very nature, but I am familiar with the concept. No, this was not directly a question about the apocalypse, but it seems to be somewhat out of character for an omniscient being to admit lack of knowledge, and you yourself admit that Jesus is omnipotent. The phrase "true man and true god" comes to my mind as evidence of said omniscience (as well as allowing for Jesus to admit himself a slight inferior to God, which is what you seemed to be saying?)

Wendy M said...

Noone but Jesus knows the day and the hour that Christ will return... the only sure thing we can know is that it is closer today than it was yesterday...

Gilligan said...

The generation Jesus referred to in Matthew 24:34 was His own. He was referring to the destruction of Jersusalem in 70 AD, not His second coming which is still future.