You have probably seen the internet ads, the billboards, the news stories about the vans driving around the country, or maybe you’ve even talked with someone who is convinced that May 21, 2011 is the end of the world.
Harold Camping is a radio broadcaster and president of Family Radio (not the be confused with American Family Radio). He has been preaching for a long time now that the world is going to end and that he knows when. He has come to this conclusion by studying the Bible and applying a numerological system that interprets certain numbers as having a prophetic significance. He calculates these numbers in an equation he has devised and the outcome is that the end of the world is 6 days from now.
Now, I could discuss Matt. 24:36 (or Mark 13:32 or Acts 1:7 or 1 Thes. 5:2) where Jesus says that no man knows the day or hour of His coming. I could also site numerous examples of people who think they know better than Jesus, who try to predict the date of His coming and have been proven wrong (including Camping himself). But I would really like to focus on something else. Love.
What do you think motivates people to not only travel around the U.S. in vans but travel all over the world putting up billboards? And those billboards aren’t cheap. One man spent $140,000, his entire retirement savings, on signs of various kinds in order to warn people. Why would they do something like this with what they believe to be the last remaining months and weeks of their earthly lives?
Their actions are a direct reflection of their beliefs and a strong sense of love and concern for those who don’t yet know Jesus. The fact that they are mistaken shouldn’t also make us dismiss them as crazy. They’re not crazy, just misinformed (well, Camping might be crazy). Think of it this way, if you were absolutely convinced that the building you were in was on fire, then the most loving thing you could do is to tell as many other people in the building as you can of the danger that they are in.
This applies not just to physical danger but to moral danger as well. If we believe the Bible to be the revealed Word of God, then to warn someone against doing the things it calls sin is the most loving thing that we can do for that person. It doesn’t matter how much they love their sin or call it a part of who they are. Statements like these only reinforce their need for repentance. Some complain that to tell someone of their sin is to be judgmental but this is not true. Was Jesus being unloving when He said “Repent or you shall perish”? He knew the danger that His listeners were in if they did not repent and believe in the Gospel and it was love that compelled Him to speak. The situation is no different for us. If we believe what is revealed in the Bible then love will compel us to teach those truths to our neighbor. If we believe that “the wages of sin is death” then love will compel us to tell people that “the free gift of God is eternal life”.
Don’t misunderstand me, Camping and his followers are seriously off base in thinking they can know when the world will end. And false predictions of a specific date of Christ’s return tend to desensitize people to the very real truth that He is returning. But for all their faults, I still have to admire their willingness to suffer hardships and mockery for the message they preach. On that point, we would do well to learn from their example.