analysis, apologetics, belief, Bible, christ, christian, christianity, End time, end times, eschatology, faith, god, gospel, grace, Harold Camping, jesus, May 21st, May 22nd, numerology, October 21st, Rapture, rebuttal, reflection, religion, salvation, Second Coming of Christ, theology, Trinity, truth
So no one was Raptured this past weekend. The Rapture did not occur – yet.
And the people left picking up the mess made from something that didn’t happen is the Church as a whole – not just the duped followers of a sect/cult/false prophet.
Why should the Church pick up a mess not made by them? We as a body didn’t cause the ridicule nor have we made such claims to create them… or did we?
A core doctrine across Christian denominational lines is that Christ will come again. His Second Coming. From there though, it’s like a room full of art students surrounding a still life trying to recreate the image through various artistic mediums, styles and methods. You’re going to get different results. Some students aren’t even in the room, “imagining” what the still-life looks like. Some are taking photos, some are trying to do a panoramic 3-D image and some are focusing on the minutia of a prominent feature. On and on it goes. The analogy of an art class in some ways works well as a description of Christian denominations and/or religion in general – though to be sure no analogy truly works when you’re trying to describe Christ and God. The general idea though is that some denominations, people, religions, etc. are “grounded” – their artwork resembles the still-life, and some don’t, perhaps going “abstract”.
Say the still-life is a boulder. The student can know a lot about the whole object and even have viewed the whole object, but when it comes time to capture an image of that object in art, few are able to encompass the whole object, to represent it so that the viewer gets “the whole picture”. A two-dimensional image may tell you so much, and yet leave out so much, whether on purpose or accidentally.
Denominations and sects, even cults often focus on particular minutia of God or their “imaginings” (if they’re not even in the classroom). While many denominations are merely shades of gray, eventually you can find yourself on either end of the spectrum. Core doctrines, the “Majors”, get pushed to the side so that particular “Minors” are focused upon. People start majoring in the minors.
So there’s this concept and belief in something called “The Rapture” among many Christians. Some Christians don’t believe in it – many saying it’s not even in the Bible (of course the same thing is said of the word/concept Trinity, yet it’s a foundational doctrine of mainstream Christianity). In a nutshell, The Rapture is the an event when all Christians, dead and living are resurrected or transfigured to meet Christ. The concept stems from a single passage in the Bible, though there are other passages from which adherents draw from to support the idea. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (NKJV) Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Surrounding this belief/interpretation/idea is an eschatological debate and varying views on Biblical eschatology in general. I’m not going to get into a discussion of the pros and cons of The Rapture or the varying eschatological interpretive camps here. Feel free to investigate it on your own and come to your own conclusions.
That said, there is an interpretive view and “camp” which believes that the Rapture must/will occur before a period called The Tribulation and afterward, Christ returns. To that end, many well-meaning Christians have devoted a lifetime of researching and thinking about the End Times and Christ’s return. To be honest I share some of that interest and have dabbled in the topic as a hobby. In fact, as I noted, most Christians believe that Christ will return and many believe that turmoil and devastation will occur in the End Times before Jesus returns. To that end, many Christians, whether they believe in the Rapture or not, like to study and think about eschatology and what they see in our world.
The problem arises though that as I noted, some of us get focused on the minutia, majoring in the minors. This isn’t to say that researching and studying Biblical eschatology isn’t a practical or enjoyable endeavor, but when it begins to warp our worldview and more importantly our walk, then we are perhaps erring, no?
As Christians we are called to preach Christ and Him crucified. Yes, Christ’s Second Coming is part of the picture of the Gospel, but His return is lagniappe for us. Our salvation is the important point.
We as Christians are called to live daily as if it is our last, whether by dying or Christ returning. We’re also called to witness to the unbelievers. How do we do that effectively? By telling them that Christ will return and/or that we’re leaving in a blink of an eye; or, by our deeds and words, more importantly by preaching God’s Grace, His love and salvific/sacrificial work. Scaring a person might “save” them, but it might not “keep” them. We need to focus on what is important when we evangelize, and more so, do so with perspective and order in mind. In a multi-course meal, dessert is not served first. You don’t deliver the punch line with-out telling the joke first. You don’t tell someone the climax and conclusion to a story without giving them the introduction, characters and plot, and etc.
So along comes Mr. Camping who took up an interest in eschatology and decided he could apply his mathematical background to it, to “unlock” it. Never mind of course that the Bible, that Christ implicitly states we cannot know the exact time of Christ’s return nor should we even try to figure it out – this is different from looking at signs of the times. Mr. Camping fell into a trap that many well-meaning Christians have fallen into. His zeal got the better of him. He lost track, and not to mention, used numerology to get him there. Somewhere along that diversion, Mr. Camping fell into outright theological error, never mind false prophecy and magnifying that which we should not. Let me just state here that since May 21st was a foregone conclusion before Friday, so too is October 21st (Camping’s date for the end of the world).
Mr. Camping viewed the still life from all sides, began focusing on a singular aspect of it and then left the room to come up with a two-dimensional piece of artwork of it; all based off of the imaginings in his mind.
And the Church is left to pick up the pieces. How so? You say that we as Christians do not need to defend the Bible or Christ, that God does not need us to defend Him. True, yet, why do we have Apologists? Why do we have preachers teaching true, sound doctrine?
Theologically and philosophically God does not need us to defend or protect His truth, yet daily it is our charge to make sure that the Truth is told, more so that it is properly told… that error is corrected when it is expounded.
To that end the Church is left to pick up the pieces “left behind” by Mr. Camping. Not only to preach the true core doctrines of Christianity and eschatology, but to hopefully collect the broken souls still searching in the aftermath of following the heresy of Mr. Camping.
It doesn’t matter that many/most of the world will ignore the Truth and/or that they’ll warp or deride it for their own amusement.
Mr. Camping, like so many false prophets and heretics has built a mansion on a sandy foundation that started with a kernel of truth. Christ WILL return again AND we WILL meet Him. Are you ready? Do you know Him? He could come again at any time – and eventually He will. False prophets will come and go, but Christ will remain always.
By the way, Mr. Camping finally made a statement Sunday. He was not surprisingly, “flabbergasted”. The sad thing is that many of his followers will just double down. I suspect Mr. Camping will do the same. He’ll find some excuses/reasonings. Besides, he has too much invested in his theological error concerning the Church… something far more damning and problematic than trying to pin the Rapture down. And there are those who’re hurt and bewildered.
Exit thought: Apparently millions of dollars were spent by Mr. Camping and his followers warning people about May 21st in an ad campaign. Imagine what that money could have done had it been channeled into viable ministries, whether in missions, providing necessities or saving the unborn?
Update Monday – Yup, Mr. Camping doubled down… it’s really October 21st, 2011 when everything happens all at once; the Rapture and the end of the world.
Hey, he’s got one more shot.
Uh huh. Numerology will get you no where, especially when you’re mixing it with the Bible and trying to use it to interpret the Bible. One of Camping’s followers had it right when he admitted that maybe they were just clueless as to how to read and interpret the Bible.
We Christians will have more theological sweeping to do in October.
- The Pastoral Challenge and Opportunity When the Rapture Doesn’t Happen – Justin Taylor (craigsturm.wordpress.com)
- “After the Rapture…” and related posts (kenschenck.blogspot.com)