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The Danger of Failed Predictions

Written By: Dan Stanley  |  Posted: Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

                It had been many years since I last listened to Harold Camping. His deep, booming voice echoed his answers to the myriad of questions called into his radio program - Family Radio. It became obvious, though, over time that he was not sound in his answers nor the Bible, often cutting off those who posed Biblical questions he simply could not answer. The recent predictions by Camping and his billboard bizarre brought him and his thinking back into the limelight for many all across America, including myself. By now we all know Harold Camping was wrong. Jesus Christ did not return on the date Camping predicted.
                Of course, what Camping has done is not new. Throughout the history of the world and the church so many have predicted the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, that none have successfully cataloged all of the dates predicted for His return. Some are an obvious straining of the imagination and the Bible. "A Roman priest living in the second century predicted Christ would return in 500 A.D., based on the dimensions of Noah's ark" according to Todd at Rapture Ready. "Hal Lindsey boldly declared that 'The Rapture' would occur before Dec. 31, 1981, based on Christian prophesy, astronomy and a dash of ecological fatalism" writes Todd. Todd writes that even "Sir Isaac Newton, Britain's greatest scientist, spent fifty years and wrote 4,500 pages trying to predict when the end of the world was coming. The most definitive date he set for the apocalypse, which he scribbled on a scrap of paper, was 2060."
                In my own lifetime, I can recall several of these and other incidents when dates were set for the return of the Lord. How well these failed attempts have proven what Jesus said in Matthew 25:13 "For ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."
                But the interest is not surprising. This interest was revealed by three questions asked by the apostles when Jesus was soon to leave them. "Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world." - Matthew 24:3. It is basic to Christian eschatology (end time events) that Jesus Christ is coming back. That He came the first time (as baby born in a manger) is common knowledge and not debated among Christians. Likewise that He is coming again to this earth is accepted by Christians in general.
                The danger, though, in setting dates (beside the obvious) is their failure becomes a means for many to ridicule the reality of this truth. When Pompeii was in danger of being buried in predicted volcanic eruption, many ridiculed its possibility. History reveals, though, that the prediction came true, resulting in the death of many, some to this day in glass cases displaying their petrified bodies still revealing the look of horror on their faces (I personally have stood in Pompeii and witnessed this). So likewise failure of these predictions can and does have that effect.
                So likewise, unsound predictions in no way lessen the reality nor truth that Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth. I do think a simple illustration of this might help, especially those who may be inclined to say as some did "Where is the promise of his coming?" - II Peter 2:4. In recent years several in the gold business have predicted it would go to $5,000 an ounce by the end of the year, whatever year that may have been. Well, it didn't. They were, as a result, and continue to be ridiculed by many investors, including even economists. And we can argue they should be ridiculed for such dogmatism. But there are others who say the same thing - gold will go to $5,000 an ounce - but will not set times. It is "imminent" in their minds. It could happened quickly. They don't know when, but they are sure it will happen. Ought this second group be laughed at and ignored? I personally recall hearing some laugh at those saying gold would go to $1,500 per ounce. They are no longer laughing. Nor will they laugh anymore when gold is $5,000 per ounce. It is just a matter of time.
                So it is unwise to ridicule or ignore the coming if Jesus Christ simply because some people wrongly set dates. Separate the two. In fact, it is my guess that many who are not Christians were affected by this recent prediction by Camping. It made some, no doubt, wonder about themselves in this regard. That, my friend, is the proper response. Recognize that today the Lord could come. Realize He is coming back to this earth. That is as sure as heaven and hell are real, Jesus Christ will come back. Let His words give us the final word on this sobering subject. "Watch, therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come...Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the son of man cometh." - Matthew 24: 42-44. One way or another we will all face our God. Watch, therefore. Get ready. He is coming. And it may be before the end of the day.

                Dan Stanley is an owner and regular contributor to the Eau Claire Journal.  He is the author of "Becoming Debt Free" and has pastored for thirty years in the Chippewa Valley.   He and his wife Beth have ten children, four grandchildren and live in Eau Claire.  He can be reached at dns@gospelcenter.us.

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