It’s the End of the World as we Know it…(and I feel fine)

From an interview with Harold Camping concerning his prediction of the rapture on May 21st, 2011 in the NYT:

Reporter: If six o’clock rolls around and there are no major earthquakes, are you going to start to get worried?

Harold Camping: It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. I don’t even think about those kind of issues. The Bible is not — God is not playing games. I don’t even want to think about that question at all. It is going to happen.

You haven’t thought about what you’ll tell your followers on May 22 if the Rapture doesn’t take place?

I’m not even thinking about that at all. It. Is. Going. To. Happen. Because I trust the Bible implicitly, the Bible is God’s word — it’s not from a man, it’s not from an organization of some kind where there’s plenty of room for error. It is the word of God. When God speaks that it is going to happen, the Bible is a very factual book, and God gives many examples of how he has made prophesies and it always has happened in exact accord with what God has prophesied.

I know you’re convinced this is going to happen, but if May 22 comes around and you’re still here, can we talk again?

I can’t even think about that question because you’re thinking that maybe, maybe Judgment Day will not happen. But it will happen, and I believe the Bible implicitly.

On May 24th, Mr. Camping declared that Jesus did indeed come back on the 21st, just spiritually.  Judgment day has been moved to October 21st according to his new calculations.

Ok…the easiest thing to do would be to mock Harold Camping for his failed prophecy…but that’s really not a fair thing to do.  He’s too easy of a target, a caricature of Christian zeal. There’s another good reason not to pile on this guy right now…he’s suffered a stroke.  I’m not jumping on the religious blame wagon to imply judgment on him either…he had a stroke, many people do, and he deserves the dignity of any fellow human in his plight.   I would think the right response to this news would be to pray for him.

The thing is though, his prophecy was public and it drew a lot of attention.  I wonder if I can address his tactics without attacking the man?  I hope so.  A lot of people seem to be really fascinated by end of the world scenarios (most of them seem to be working as program directors for the History Channel). The end of days has always been of interest to the church, and rightly so, because Jesus did talk about it…though I really think the amount of space devoted to the subject at any Christian bookstore is disproportionate to the amount of times Jesus did talk about the end.

Our passage this week is Luke 17:20-37, where Jesus talks about the end! (For the rest of this blog post I dare you not to hum “its the end of the world as we know it” by REM.  If you DO start humming, welcome to my world where that has been a constant ear-worm for the last three days)

Jesus is asked about the timing of the kingdom of God’s arrival by the Pharisees.  They are questioning his role as a possible messiah.  They have things worked out very neatly in their theological training…they’ve probably got charts…and they want to know where all the blood and fire and pillars of smoke are that Joel said would come with Messiah and the end of the age.  Jesus responds about signs…what does he say, and what do YOU take from that?

He next turns to his disciples and warns them that things may get rough…and people will come declaring they know the timetable and location of the end game.  How does he say we should react and respond to them?  What does THAT tell us about end-time hoopla?

The next thing Jesus does is compare the end to two different stories of divine cataclysmic judgment in the Old Testament – Noah’s flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. What does he say characterized those days preceding  that sudden judgment?  Do they read like “signs” of impending doom?  What WAS there to tell people in Noah’s day that and end was coming and something new would be in it’s place?  What does THAT tell us about what we should focus on concerning intrigue about the end of history?

Stuff to think about.  Hope everyone has a great holiday weekend!  Hope to see you on Sunday!