Fire in My Bones, by J. Lee Grady

Want to receive Fire in My Bones by email? Sign up here
Here are three reasons why Harold Camping's end-times prediction should be ignored.

I spent the past week in Guyana, a South American nation where the people are friendly, the food is spicy and churches are growing at a healthy pace. But Christians there face a serious challenge because of the sad legacy of Jim Jones, the American cult leader who ordered his followers to drink poisoned Kool-Aid at their compound in Jonestown in 1978. The mass suicide, which killed 909 people (including Jones), went down in history as the world's worst example of religion gone wrong.

"Even today, the Jim Jones tragedy poses a problem of credibility for us," one pastor in the city of Corriverton told me last week.

As sincere as Camping's devotees may be, sincerity is no excuse for theological error. It is wrong-headed and irresponsible for any Christian to tell an unbeliever when Jesus is coming back or when the world will end.”

You can imagine my dismay when I arrived in Guyana and learned that groups of Americans were combing the streets and passing out literature claiming that Jesus will rapture the church on May 21. These Christians apparently are so convinced of the prediction that they traveled to the only English-speaking country in South America to deliver a last-minute warning.

This outbreak of rapture fever originated with Harold Camping, 89, a California-based Bible teacher who says he figured out the date of Jesus' return by studying the book of Daniel and other biblical texts. Never mind that Jesus said no one would know the timing of His return (see Matt. 24:36). And never mind that Camping has a bad track record—he previously set Sept. 6, 1994, as the date for the Apocalypse. Many gullible Christians are still willing to trust Camping’s instincts.

I cringed when I heard that Americans were telling Guyanese people they have two weeks left before Jesus arrives to take all true Christians to heaven. Camping's followers also believe the world will end in October. I've learned in the last week that many believers have jumped on this bandwagon; they've put up billboards, purchased TV ads, painted warnings on rooftops, issued radio alerts and flooded nations with printed warnings.

I can't compete with this doomsday madness, but I can offer an appeal for sanity. Here are three reasons why we should not spread Camping's prediction:

1. It is a false prophecy. How can I say this with assurance? Because Jesus Himself said all end-times date setting is strictly off-limits. He told His disciples on the day He ascended: "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority" (Acts 1:8, NASB). If it is not for us to know, then how does Harold Camping know? Is he God? Only the worst form of spiritual pride would lead a person to claim such knowledge.

2. Failed date-setting has discredited Christians many times before. Why can't we learn from history? William Miller, the father of Seventh-day Adventism, was convinced that Jesus would come back in 1844.  When his prediction turned out to be bogus (a moment known as "the Great Disappointment"), many disillusioned “Millerites” abandoned their faith.

Jehovah’s Witnesses taught that Jesus would begin His millennial reign in 1914. When that didn't happen, they pointed to the outbreak of World War I and began teaching that this was the "beginning of the end." A few years later they moved the date to 1925. Nothing happened that year, but more than a generation later they circulated the prediction that the world would end in 1975. (They also taught that only Jehovah's Witnesses would survive a global holocaust.)

Recent history is littered with more of these embarrassing predictions, including Jim Jones’ claim that the world would end in nuclear war on July 15, 1967. Jones was a communist who believed he was the reincarnation of Jesus, Buddha and Lenin, so Christians didn’t take him seriously. But when a Christian layman, Edgar Whisenant, wrote 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988, millions of believers bought it. You won’t get much money for that book at a garage sale today.

3. End-times date-setting hinders the cause of Christ. Just imagine what will go through the minds of unbelievers on May 22, 2011. Christians told them Jesus would return, but He didn't. This will make followers of Christ look silly and unreliable.

As sincere as Camping's devotees may be, sincerity is no excuse for theological error. It is wrong-headed and irresponsible for any Christian to tell an unbeliever when Jesus is coming back or when the world will end. That is not the message we were commissioned to preach. Dates and deadlines do not have the power to save souls—only the gospel can do that.

When we share Christ with others, we don't need to provide a date for His Second Coming. Instead, we tell them about the miracle of Calvary and remind them: "Today is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2). No one knows when he will die; every new day could be his last. And every person will stand before God when this life is over.

There is urgency in the gospel, for sure, but it is not about a countdown to the rapture. Hundreds of thousands of people die every day without Jesus, whether or not He returns in their generation. This alone should motivate us to avoid foolish distractions and false prophecies so we can get busy with the task of genuine evangelism.

J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter.com leegrady. His newest book is 10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House).

Best Magazine Deal. Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Charisma, SpiritLed Woman and Ministry Today, all for $24. YES - I want this deal!

3 Reasons Why you should read Life in the Spirit. 1) Get to know the Holy Spirit. 2) Learn to enter God's presence 3) Hear God's voice clearly! Click Here to draw closer to God!

Did you enjoy this blog? Click here to receive it by email.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
View/Add Comments
  • Donald Trump certainly needs your prayers.

    Why You Must Pray for Donald Trump

    Here are eight ways I plan to intercede for President Trump regularly.

  • Here's a prophetic word for Washington, D.C.

    Prophecy: The Lord Is Raising Up Daniels in DC

    I believe we're on the precipice of a Third Great Awakening the Lord spoke to my heart about in ...

  • Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    I have been puzzled about the subject of inner healing for some time.

  • 2017 is the year that swords will clash.

    Prophetic Word: 2017 Will Bring a Clashing of Heaven and Hell

    "This is a time to cross over and not pull back."

  • Roadblock

    6 Roadblocks That Will Stop Your Spiritual Growth

    God wants you to grow in your faith, but many of us get stuck along the way.

  • Cindy Jacobs

    2017: Year of the Breakthrough

    "There will be a significant increase in miracles and signs and wonders."

  • The devil will try to silence you in any way he can. Don't give him the satisfaction.

    Satan's 2 Most Potent Lies to Render You Ineffective

    There's something in you so powerful that Satan doesn't want it out. Kyle Winkler reveals ...

  • Foot washing

    Shaking the Gates of Hell With a Basin of Water and a Towel

    "When I saw His foot, I knew He had come to take back territory the enemy had stolen from His ...

  • Are you willing to volunteer for God's offensive army?

    Prophetic Word: Preparing for God's World War 3

    God is searching for soldiers of the cross who are willing to volunteer for His offensive army.

  • Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Follow God on the most fulfilling journey of your life with Encounter the Holy Spirit! Break away from past hurts and press into the One who wants a personal encounter with you.

  • Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Reach your full potential and be led by His Spirit. In His Presence takes you to a deeper understanding of who God is and how he communicates with us.

  • Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Receive the power and gifts that come through the Holy Spirit Baptism. Don’t go empty-handed; accept all that He has for you! His power is available to those who ask.

  • Put on the Full Armor of God

    Put on the Full Armor of God

    Break every stronghold with the power of the Holy Spirit. Use the power of your tongue to declare and decree the Word of God. Witness heaven move on your behalf.

Use Desktop Layout
Charisma Magazine — Empowering believers for life in the Spirit