"It's like déjà vu, all over again." - Yogi Berra
Well, Doomsday has come and gone once again, and the modern day prophets have missed the mark again. If there is one thing that is consistent among these modern day apocalyptic speculators is that they are wrong EVERY time, but will never admit it! Names and dates are constantly changed and predictions revised as one prophecy after another fails to come to fruition. Instead of giving up on their careers as failed prophecy teachers, these teachers will go back to the prophetic drawing board to rework their doomsday calculations. Unfortunately, most Christians will continue to guess and anticipate the time of the "rapture" and "Christ's Second Coming." Books, seminars, talk shows, and other sources of information will spew forth the latest and newly recalculated dates and times. It took Harold Camping nearly two days to "revive" his failed timeline for Judgment Day after his current prediction miserably crashed. Judgment Day, according to him, is now October 21st, 2011. Please mark that date on your "end-of-the-world calendar" and make the appropriate arrangements for your departure. I'm sure he will once again recalculate the date when October 2011 comes and goes.
If there is one area of controversy in the modern day church that I believe has devastated its mission, its the subject of eschatology. Eschatology is the study of the end times or the end of the world. It is a subject that has both terrorized and fascinated mankind, as well as the church, for over two millenniums. How can one not be awed by the "moon not giving its light," "stars falling from the heavens," "the sun growing dark," "the earth being burnt up with fire," or a host of other Biblically predicted end time events. There is only one small problem with all these numerous scenarios - the Bible does not teach these events as end-of-the-world phenomena! These signs were taught as the end-of-the-age phenomena! These two views, end-of-the-world versus end-of-the-age, make a BIG difference in how we interpret the Bible and the effect it will have on our daily and future lives! Unfortunately, the supposedly Biblically-based end-of-the-world predictions by these "prophecy experts" has undermined the authority of the Bible and the message of the church to a lost and dying world. How can the message of the Bible be true if the prophecies in it are always wrong?
Well, the Bible is not wrong with any of its prophecies. It's the "Bible prophecy speculators" who have pulled the prophecies out of their historic and time-constrained contexts and have twisted and turned them into something that is beyond recognition! EVERY New Testament prophesy dealing with the "end" was addressed to people living immediately after the accession of Jesus. These prophecies were written for their instruction and warning! They are recorded for us in Holy Scripture to once again prove to us the reliability and truth of God's Word! Gary Demar from American Vision states: "The New Testament is filled with exhortations that a near eschatological event was on the horizon for those living at that time." Here are some examples:
- The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. - Romans 13:12
- But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none. - 1 Corinthians 7:29
- Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come, - 1 Corinthians 10:11
- Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. - Philippians 4:5
- God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. - Hebrews 1:2
- [Jesus] would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. - Hebrews 9:26
- [Let us not forsake] our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. - Hebrews 10:25
- For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay” - Hebrews 10:37
- Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! - James 5:3
- Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. - James 5:7–9
- The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. - I Peter 4:7
- Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. - 1 John 2:18
- The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John. - Revelation 1:1
- Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. - Revelation 1:3
- I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. - Revelation 3:11
- And [the angel] said to [John], ‘These words are faithful and true’; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. - Revelation 22:6
- And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book. - Revelation 22:7
- And [the angel] said to [John], ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. - Revelation 22:10
- Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. - Revelation 22:12
- He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. - Revelation 22:20
To take these prophecies out of their first century audience and time frame context and apply them to a future time period 2000 years in the future is to do violence to the good news of the Bible's message and to undermine its credibility. Notice what C.S. Lewis said about the supposedly unfulfilled first century end time prophecies and read a blogger's comments about his quote:
…But there is worse to come. "Say what you like" we shall be told, "the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, this generation shall not pass till all these things be done. And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else." It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. …The one exhibition of error and the one confession of ignorance grow side by side. …The facts, then, are these: that Jesus professed himself (in some sense) ignorant, and within a moment showed that he really was so. - C. S. Lewis, The World's Last Night
I agree that this is embarrassing for Christianity. It is clear from a careful reading of the New Testament that Jesus and the early Christians thought the end of the world, and Judgment, was coming soon, but I wouldn't have expected Lewis to admit it. So, "Jesus, mad, bad or God" - or just a preacher prone to making claims and predictions that turned out not to be true? - blogger's comment on C.S. Lewis quote
In his book The Last Days According to Jesus, R.C. Sproul writes that he could never accept the statement from C.S. Lewis that Jesus was wrong about his return. He could accept the notion that "Bible scholars" could be wrong about a particular interpretation of scripture, but he could never accept that Jesus was wrong about anything.
Being wrong about their particular interpretation of scripture, however, will not stop the modern prophets of doom from seeing the "fulfillment of Bible prophecy right before our eyes" with EVERY new disaster, uprising, or event making front page headlines in newspapers. Instead of moving on, these false teachers will give us just more of the same tired, old, and incorrect "latest" revelations of the signs of the end of the world. It will be déjà vu all over again!