Sunday, May 29, 2011

Harold Camping and the End of the World

“I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”
Ps 2:7-9

No doubt you all, like me, have witnessed with a mixture of mirth and mortification the failure of Harold Camping’s prediction that the end of the world was to have arrived a week ago Saturday. And now, apparently, rather than repent of his original folly, he has announced that really he was right. Last Saturday was the spiritual judgment of the world and come October it will all be wrapped up.

I say that I have witnessed this with a mixture of mirth and mortification. Mirth because it is hard to believe that any teacher of the Bible would be so ignorant of Jesus’ refusal to pinpoint the day or the hour of His return – either to judge Jerusalem within the generation of those living or to bring human history to a close at His second coming. How could he get something that Jesus makes so clear so wrong? And so I sometimes laugh.

But not only has sardonic laughter echoed in my head, I have been deeply mortified. Why? Because Harold Camping professes to be not simply a follower of Jesus but a teacher of God’s people. And his false prophecy, in company with the false prophecies of many others throughout history, has only served to undermine legitimate faith in the second coming of Jesus. “Can you believe these folks actually believe that Jesus is going to return again? What a fairy tale! After all, look how many times their teachers have gotten it wrong!”

And so I’ve viewed all this with a mixture of mirth and mortification. But our passage today reminds us why Harold Camping is all wrong, why it is certain that Jesus is not yet going to return in glory, and why we need not fear for the long term success of the Gospel despite the follies of false prophets like Camping. Why? Because the Father promised to His Son, promised to our Lord Jesus Christ, that He would give Him all the nations of the earth as His inheritance, and all the ends of the world as His possession. He promised His Son that all kings would bow down to Him, all would worship Him and pay Him homage as He subdues them through His power.

And given the promise that the Father has made to Jesus to give Him all the nations of the earth as his inheritance, how can we imagine that the state in which we observe the world at this time is the time of the fulfillment? The nations of Europe are in apostasy. America is under the sway of political polytheism. China is in bondage to communism. The middle east is trapped in the darkness of Islam and Judaism. Large portions of Africa are still in the grips of paganism. The nations have yet to acknowledge the supremacy of Jesus. But one day, our psalm assures us, they shall.

And it is to this end that we are called to pray and to labor and to strive. Jesus commissioned His Church, not to hunker down and await some cosmic rescue plan, but to march forth to victory, proclaiming the cosmic reign of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ whom the Father raised from the dead and seated at His right hand. We are to call upon all the nations of the earth, including our friends, families, politicians, business owners, and entertainers, to kiss the Son and acknowledge His rule, lest He become angry and they perish in the way. You see, at any time Jesus may come for us personally. Death may strike us at any moment and we may be called upon to meet our Maker. But Jesus will not return finally in judgment until all the nations of the earth have bowed before Him and acknowledged His rule – and so our job as the people of God is not to speculate about the date of his return but to get to work.

Reminded of our collective failure to bear witness to the Lordship of Jesus and our tendency to make the exalted Lord look foolish by our teaching, let us confess our sins together. We will confess privately and then corporately using the printed confession in your bulletin. Let us kneel together as we confess.