“Hey, that’s my 29th wedding anniversary! Should I make dinner reservations or not?” “Are you kidding me?!?!” “Could they be right???” “Oooh. . . I could write a funny blog on this!” I’ll admit it. . . those are just a few of the thoughts that fired through my head when I spotted the billboard last Saturday.
I was in Johnstown, Pennsylvania to visit family for Easter and I was driving down the steep hill on Southmont Blvd. While sitting at the stoplight across from Murphy’s (the best place in town for wings, by the way), I looked up and saw the billboard. I had to read it a few times as I had no prior knowledge of or context for the ad’s message. It seems that Jesus is scheduled to return on May 21. Still, I realized I had been down this doomsday road before.
Ironically, my most significant prior journey through a declaration of Christ’s return happened thirty years ago in this same town. I was doing campus ministry with a couple of other guys. One of the guys – who had not been properly theologically vetted by our campus ministry group – was the newest member of our trio. With deep passion and commitment, he quickly informed the other two of us shortly after his arrival that the Lord had told him that we should shift the focus of our ministry from one of evangelism and discipleship, to preparing students for the imminent return of Christ, including some survivalist techniques. Remember, these were the days when the old film A Thief in the Night was being used to literally scare the hell out of youth group kids. These were also the days when Hal Lindsey’s book The Late Great Planet Earth was a best-seller. When I was a college freshman, the combination of starting (not finishing!) to read that book and then watching the film at a local Baptist church. . . well, let’s just say it led to a series of sleepless nights for me and my roomates. Now, as a young twenty-something doing ministry, I was faced with going against the prophetic word of the Lord as recieved and delivered by a co-worker. In fact, our fellow campus minister had just found out that his wife was pregnant with their first child. He also happened to be reading through the book of Isaiah at the same time. Somehow, his eyes landed on Isaiah 8:4, a verse he believed the Lord was using to inform him (and nobody else, mind you), that He (Jesus) would return after the couple’s baby boy was born, and before that baby boy would speak. Even though the context was horribly skewed, my pushback still felt like I was arguing with God.
When my co-worker refused to yield to arguments regarding his misuse of Scripture, we then turned to arguments about whether or not we can, in fact, know the time. Our appeals to the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 and 25 also fell on deaf ears. It seems that the day and hour were unknown to everyone but this guy. Finally, I started praying that the matter would be ended with him failing the test of the prophet. Just like Deuteronomy 18 says, a self-proclaimed prophet is a false prophet if anything he says does not come to pass. I figured we had two shots here. One, his wife would give birth to a girl. . . which would put the matter to rest in a couple of months. Or two, their boy – if they had a boy – would start speaking before Jesus comes back. Winds up that “it’s a girl!” was the best news we got! I congratulated the new father, and then quickly told him that he was a false prophet.
So, I (as a Christian)look at that billboard with great skepticism and shame. My understanding of what is so very clear in the Scriptures tells me that “yes,” Jesus will come back someday to make all things new. I long for that day. But until then, it’s not my job to focus on doing the math for the simple reason that I’ve been charged with other responsibilities (like being a faithful and obedient follower of Jesus). . . and the math can’t be done. Which is why I feel shame for the ways we throw this stuff out there for the world to see.
Still, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Harold Camping could have guessed right. We’ll see.
I suspect the following:
(1) May 21 will come and go without the return of Christ.
(2) Harold Camping will claim that people’s prayers have delayed God’s judgment.
(3) If Camping lives another decade or longer, he’ll find yet another specific date to declare Jesus’ return.
Was Thief in the Night that movie that had a guillotine in it for those left behind? I remember seeing that movie growing up…scared a little more than the hell out of me!
I was given a pamphlet that said May 21 is Judgement Day and that Oct 21 (i think that is what it said) will be the end of the World.
These dates are all based on knowing the date of Noah’s flood (claimed to be 7,000 years ago this year) and I do not believe that date is as clear as this “prophet” claims it is. I guess we will see very shortly whether he is a true prophet or a false prophet but i’m thinking the latter.
And around the same time as “Thief…Night”, my church showed a movie in which a biker guy died in an accident and went to hell to burn in flames. I walked the aisle that night without even realize what faith was at all. I was just scared to death. A couple of years later at a youth conference, I walked the aisle again, this time with a little clearer picture of putting my faith in Christ. Thankfully, God saved me and gave me a much clearer picture of his grace about 5 years after that.
Oh my gosh – I live in Windber, and these billboards are DRIVING ME NUTS. I really hate that some say “The Bible Guarantees It” becaues it really doesn’t. Apparently he figured out that 5/21/11 is exactly 7,000 years to the day of the Noahic flood or something – my goodness. And all it does is throw more skepticism on our beautiful Lord and His Kingdom – Come Lord Jesus, Come, just please not on the 21st. Honestly.
Saw this or something nearly identical on I-95 somewhere between Jacksonville and Savannah. Glad someone else saw it too. How odd.
Yes, the Thief in the Night movies were the ones with the guillotine–I still have nightmares about those movies!
Well stated. I have had people at work as me about the Dec 2012 date too. I tell them 2012 IS significant. Just open to read Revelation 20:12 and ironically, it will make you concerned.
Jack, I have no idea what you’re talking about. You mention Dec. 2012 as being significant. Why? I read Rev. 20:12 and this is the total opposite of being saved by grace, and has nothing to do with predicting Christ’s second coming. And what is the “irony” you speak of?
I read your Bio and you’re obviously quite a prolific writer and communicator, but reading your comment doesn’t support that. Even if you are somehow connecting the year number 2012 with the Rev.20:12 number I still don’t get it. Can you clarify?
Well said, Vern! I agree. And I positively cringe any time someone comes up with “the date.”
We have these signs all over Northern California, Camping lives around here and has a radio show, he is in his late 80’s I believe. It is such a problem, what happens and what do Christians around here say on the 22nd when this event will not happen? He believes that the church age ended in 1988 and that Satan is in the church now and that now judgement day is here on the 21st. He also said that there will be great earthquakes happening at 6:00, when they are all gone. So specific! God never says we know the time or the date. Should we be carrying around stones when this doesn’t happen……?