I had planned on posting this picture on May 22, 2011- the day after the much publicized prediction of the Judgement Day Rapture. But then I thought to myself, well, on the 0.000000000000001% chance that the Rapture is going to occur this Saturday at 6PM, maybe I should err on the safe side and post it now- just in case.
I took this picture back in December when Spencer and I were driving to North Carolina to visit her Great-Grandparents. We were just outside of Lynchburg, VA, in a fairly rural area, when I spotted this massive billboard proclaiming Judgement Day was going to be on May 21, 2011. So I did the same thing any other sane person would have done and so I did an immediate u-turn followed by another u-turn into the median turning lane.
I always keep my camera in the front seat with me when I'm driving, which was good since I didn't exactly want to park my car in the lane for any lengthy period of time. The only problem was that I wasn't really up close to the billboard and I had to take the pictures through the windshield glass- hence the not-so-great image quality. But there was nothing that was going to stop me from taking a picture of this thing! I could not believe what I was seeing and I didn't think anyone else would believe me either- unless I had photographic proof!
Under the umbrella of Christianity, there have been denominations, sects and cults all claiming to know that the Rapture was going to occur on a specific day. When their predictions didn't come true these groups did one of three things 1) Fizzled out due to a lack of credibility and loss of belief in their leader 2) Offered an explanation as to why the Lord changed his mind and that it was now going to happen on this new date or 3) Committed mass suicide.
People have been making these Judgement Day/Rapture predictions for over 2000 years- it's a pretty common thing. But what is new is this massive grass roots/viral marketing/savvy advertising campaign these folks have created in order to spread their message. The types of groups and individuals that usually make this kind of specific date prediction are generally on the fringe of mainstream Christianity- meaning they have a small following, limited funds, and lack authority/credibility within the Christian orthodoxy. Even if they wanted to spread the news far and wide, high and low, they wouldn't really have the means to do so and if for some reason they had those kinds of funds, their lack of credibility would prevent them from being taken seriously.
Harold Camping has been spreading the news of a May 21, 2011 Judgement Day ever since his last failed Rapture prediction came and went on September 6, 1994. This makes it even more baffling that so many people have latched onto his teachings. And his teachings don't have any wiggle room or room for doubt- "Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment," he told the AP.
Not only have they latched on- his followers have quit their jobs, sold their homes, and cashed out their retirement funds! They've taken their children out of school so that they could join them spreading this news across the county, no, the world! They drive around in caravans of RVs sharing their message that the world as we all know it is going to end on May 21, 2011. And then five months later, on October 21, 2011, God is going to completely destroy the Earth and everyone else who still has the great misfortune of still being alive. Ironically, I will turn 30 on October 22, so maybe that's not so bad... kidding!
My theological beliefs are always evolving and I think it's important that it stays that way. When you stop asking questions, stop trying to learn something new, and stop looking deeper, you stop any growth. But there will always be a few things that, for me, don't and shouldn't evolve. I haven't completely firmed up my eschatological beliefs- I flip flop between some schools of thought, but I do know there is one thing about which I'm certain. And that is, if you believe in a literal Rapture interpretation, you must also literally believe that no one, not one single person, knows the hour or day it's going to happen.
Now I am the first person who will say that the Bible can sometimes be frustratingly vague, especially for someone like me who likes clear cut, easy to understand answers. But what Jesus says here seems pretty clear- He didn't use a parable to explain a deeper meaning or answer their question with another question- it's a direct answer without any hidden sub-text. It says:
"As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. 'Tell us,' they said, 'when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?' Jesus answered: 'Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name'" Matt 24:3-5 (NIV) Later on in that chapter He tells them "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Matt 24:36 (NIV)
And if those verses weren't enough to convince you that you can't predict the exact day of judgment, there's more! Jesus went on telling his disciples "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." Matt 24:42-44 (NIV)
So it confuses me as to why Harold Camping thinks there is a secret encoded calendar in the Bible that provides the answer to the 2000 year old question about the actual, specific day of judgment. But Camping is kind of an odd duck; he uses a literal hermeneutic approach in regards to the specific rapture, which is generally consistent with the dispensationalists, yet he rejects premillennialism, and believes the tribulation began in 1988- which is not at all consistent with dispensationalism. And with the exception of the rapture, his theology fall clearly within the amillennialists allegorical interpretation of scripture- yet they don't believe in a literal rapture. He is all over the place trying to piece this thing together the way he sees it and it just doesn't work.
I can tell you this though- I will be really miffed if it's that predictable and it does happen on Saturday. When I first learned about "the end days," I spent countless hours worrying that it would happen before I could get married and have children. Think of all I could have done with that time? ha! As Peanuts creator Charles Schultz once famously put it, "Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia."
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