Judgement Day #1
Supposedly the Mayans determined that it would happen at the end of 2012 — either December 21st or December 23rd. At least their calendar, the Mayan Long Count calendar stops then. Of course maybe they just ran out of calendar space, I don’t know. Perhaps you saw the movie 2012. It was filled with cataclysmic events; a tsunami surging over the Himalayas, meteors crashing down on the earth’s landscape as well as a mega earthquake in Yellowstone ripping apart the earth’s crust. You remember, the trailer for the movie ended with a message encouraging viewers to find out the truth… by using Internet search engines. Because we all know that the best, most authoritative information is always found on the internet.
Of course this isn’t the first prediction of the end of the world.
In 960 Bernard of Thuringia, a German theologian, calculated 992 as the most likely year for the world’s end. As the time approached, panic was widespread. German astrologer Johann Stoffler predicted an overwhelming flood on February 20, 1524. Believers started constructing arks. One man is said to have been trampled to death by a mob attempting to board his specially built vessel. When nothing happened, the calculations were revised and a new date given 1588. That year also passed without any unusual rainfall.
William Miller saw the day coming in 1844. His teachings started a national movement, which later — post 1844 — became the Seventh Day Adventists. After studying both the Bible and the mystical messages of the Great Pyramid, in 1874 Charles Taze Russell, founder of the sect that became Jehovah’s Witnesses, concluded that Judgement Day had already taken place. He declared that people had 40 years, or until 1914, to enter his faith or be destroyed. Later he modified the date to “very soon after 1914.” There are more. Herbert W. Armstrong said it would be January 7, 1972.
When I was in seminary, Edgar Whisenant — a former NASA engineer wrote a book entitled, “88 Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1988.” He had absolutely no doubts about the date — September 13th, 1988. In fact he wrote, “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong…” Quite a few Christians thought he had it right. For example Paul and Jan Crouch and the Trinity Broadcast Network — altered their regular programming on the 13th. They ran videotapes of prerecorded shows with specific instructions on what to do in case Christian family members had disappeared in the rapture.
Eventually, close to five million copies of the book were published. In 1989 he wrote another book, “89 reasons Why Christ will return in 1989.” That one didn’t sell quite as well.
Then of course there’s Harold Camping. His first end-times prediction was in 1994. His most recent prediction is for this weekend. May 21st, 2011. People all over the world are buying into this one. Robert Fitzpatrick spent his life-savings $140,000 to advertise the end of the world. Billboards, bus-stops, RV caravans are spreading the word around the country, even at least one group taking a cruise to spread the word to the Caribbean Islands. If it’s the end of the world, let’s take a cruise, right?
Now — let me tell you what I think — On May 22nd, Harold Camping is going to say “oops.” But what if May 21st was the day? What should I do for the next two days? Here’s some advice from the author of Hebrews,
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)
So tomorrow, spur someone on to love and good deeds.
The formula was simplistic. The notion (nailing the day) was presumptuous. The baggage (trinity and hellfire) was typical. And he sure did flummox a lot of followers. But he is ‘keeping on the watch.’ No one can say he’s not doing that. As so many before him have done. As you pointed out.