Wake Me Up When Its Over?
The end of the world has always had a strong fascination for human folk regardless of religion, the more cataclysmic the better. There are even non-religious versions be it dire predictions of global warming and overpopulation, the “Doomsday Clock” which was recently set back one minute or the Mayan calendar that dates 2012 as the year when the curtain falls on human existence. In these schemes, at the “end of the world” mankind gets paid back whether by environmental catastrophe, nuclear annihilation or by alien invasion. Which has meant a plethora of end of world / post-catastrophe themes and plots for Hollywood – from “The War of the Worlds,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “Planet of the Apes,” the Mad Max series, “The Matrix,” “2012,” and most recently “The Road” and “The Book of Eli.”
In both fringe & mainstream Christianity there’s always been someone whose set a date for either Christ’s return or the end of the world, be it 1844 (Adventist William Miller), 1914, 1918, & 1975 (Jehovah Witnesses), 1977 (William Branham), 1981 (Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel), 1988 (Edgar Whisenant, author of “88 Reasons Why the Rapture is in 1988”) or 1992 a Korean group called “Mission for the Coming Days.”
The most recent may be Harold Camping, 88, founder of “Family Radio Network” who says he has developed a mathematical system to interpret prophecies hidden within the Bible. One night a few years ago, Camping, a civil engineer by trade, crunched the numbers and was stunned at what he’d found: The world will end May 21, 2011 (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/1/10). This is not the first time Camping has made a bold prediction about Judgment Day. On Sept. 6, 1994, dozens of Camping’s believers gathered inside Alameda’s Veterans Memorial Building to await the return of Christ, an event Camping had promised for two years. Followers dressed children in their Sunday best and held Bibles open-faced toward heaven. But the world did not end. Camping allowed that he may have made a mathematical error. He spent the next decade running new calculations.
I really can’t fathom why people listen to or believe this drivel and worse plan their lives by it. I’m also not sure what it is in the human psyche that at some level (beyond the cinematic thrill) enjoys the idea of payback for the human race by flying saucer, alien critter or divine destruction. I recall in 1988 getting into a conversation with a young man (who happened to be protesting some forgotten cause) who firmly believed he would not be on planet earth after a certain date in that year. I told him to give me his phone number as I wanted to check with him after that date to see if he was still on the planet. Alas, he wasn’t willing to have me check up on him. Since the world didn’t end in 1988 and as far as I recall no rapture of a “Left Behind” type occurred I assume the young man is somewhere even now going about life. I wonder if he pondered what went wrong with the prediction and his unwavering confidence in it – or maybe he’s moved on to protesting something else, or found another date-setter to follow.
It is enough for me to say and hope along with the creed, “I believe…that from thence (the right hand of the Father) he (Jesus Christ) shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end…we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.” and I will add that “according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2Pe 3:13). That is worth believing in and living for & no speculative, ingenious exegesis of obscure Bible texts or date setting is required! In the meantime, there’s enough hurt and trouble on planet earth that needs our attention.