Are you ready for apocalypse?
Harold Camping's prediction that this Saturday will mark the end of the world has yielded a diverse array of responses from the general public. Despite the well-known broadcaster's insistence that Jesus Christ will return this weekend, most Biblical experts and Christian adherents are skeptical -- or flat out reject -- Camping's claims.
In a piece for The Washington Times, Christian author and academic Donald L. Brake, Sr. writes, "If there is one date we know the Lord will not come it is May 21, 2011 because the Scriptures are very exact." Brake goes on to share Biblical verses that he says contradict Camping's predictions and that reinforce commonly held belief in Christian circles that the rapture's date is meant to be a surprise:
"No one knows about that day or hour, nor even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36, NIV).
"But of that day and hour knoweth on man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (KJV)
"But as for that day and hour no one knows it—not even the angels in heaven—except the Father alone." (NET Bible) Mark 13:32 reiterates the same sentiment.
While Camping's billboards boast "The Bible guarantees it" (in reference to the May 21 date), most Christians believe, as these scriptures seem to indicate, that the Bible has been purposely unclear in specifying the exact date of Christ's return. Doug Stirling, the pastor of Kennett Square Bible Methodist Church in Pennsylvania, is telling followers to simply ignore Camping's Doomsday message. Stirling says,
"The Bible is very clear and it says no man will know the hour of the Lord's return. Unless God returns before the 21st, we will have church here on the 22nd."
Rev. Paul Viggiano of Branch of Hope Orthodox Presbyterian Church shares in the disappointment and surprise over Camping's statements. Viggiano claims that end of the world predictions are nothing new. He writes that fringe Christian groups that believe they are living in the "last days" have been around for 2,000 years and that so far "...they're zero for 2,000."
While most Christians would avoid stating a specific date, in June 2010, The Pew Research Center found that 41 percent of Americans believe that Christ will return to earth by 2050. The Wall Street Journal tells us that between 30 and 40 percent of Americans believe that the Bible offers a specific order of events during the End Times. Most people who accept the notion that Christ will return believe that world events and patterns may mark that the time is near:
These include wars, increasing wickedness (wickedness always seems to be increasing), natural catastrophes like the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, long-term environmental hazards like global warming, unfolding events in Israel and the Middle East, and the emergence of global political and economic systems laying the groundwork for the Antichrist’s dictatorship. (Especially since 9/11, many prophecy popularizers have linked Islam with the Antichrist.)
A receptionist for Camping's organization, Family Radio, is also skeptical of her boss' predictions. In an interview with CNNMoney, she said, "I don't believe in any of this stuff that's going on, and I plan on being here next week." She's been busy scheduling meetings and other gatherings for the majority of Family Radio's staff members (she claims 80 percent of the organization's staff don't believe in Camping's End Time proclamations).
Regardless of what happens on May 21, two things remain certain: Belief in Christ's return will likely remain a popular part of our culture and Camping will have plenty of explaining to do if and when Sunday morning comes. Below, watch Camping's "Open Forum," during which Christians confront him on his May 21 prophesies:
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