Thursday, 26 May 2011

The end of the world - but not as we know it

So the 'end of the world' came and went on Saturday without even a tremor - except for the volcano in Iceland. Harold Camping, the American pastor, is apologetic for getting his sums wrong and leading many people to spend their life savings in preparing for the Rapture.

This is nothing new. Ever since the time of St Paul people have been expecting the imminent return of the Lord Jesus. Paul had to write to the church in Thessalonica that the 'day of the Lord' would come unexpectedly, so they had better just get on with life as normal in a state of preparation. It seems that some in that church had decided to give up work as they expected the Lord to come there and then.

The Anabaptists in the 17th century had several episodes of 'Rapture panic', and it has continued ever since wherever people get hold of the bible and start interpreting it as a hidden code full of 'ancient mysteries' (to use Dan Brown's phrase in 'The Lost Symbol').

The bible is not a code book that has to be interpreted by careful calculation. Rather it is, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the way we hear the living voice of God day by day. I'm afraid Harold Camping is barking very much up the wrong tree. He - and his followers even more so - needs to heed the words of Deuteronomy 18:22 - If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That propet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.

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