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Setting dates for Jesus' return

Back in the 1980s someone wrote a book titled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will be in 1988. Apparently those 88 reasons didn’t persuade the Lord. 1988 came and went. For awhile the book sold like crazy, but nobody buys it anymore.

Someone else predicted Jesus would come for his people in the 1990s. Harold Camping, head of the Family Radio network of stations, wrote a book titled 1994 and said that Jesus would almost certainly come in October of 1994. When October of 1994 came and went, did Harold Camping admit he was dead wrong and repent of his bad prediction? No, he simply adjusted his views to say that we had arrived not at the end of the world but the end of the church. True followers of Jesus would endanger their souls if they stayed in churches. There should be no more baptism, Lord’s Supper, elders, or pastors. All true Christians must flee organized churches and form their own little groups that would no longer call themselves churches. Meanwhile, true believers should continue listening to Family Radio and keep sending money there. Camping set a new date and exact time for Jesus' return which was absolutely, positively, unmistakably taught in the Bible: 6 p.m. on May 21, 2011. Camping spent millions of donor dollars advertising the date. As I look around on this evening of May 21, 2011, I see only a quiet, lovely sunset.

Another person who made precise predictions was Charles Taze Russell. Russell was certain Jesus would come in 1914, and when it didn’t happen, Russell explained that Jesus really had returned, but he had done so invisibly. Later he would come visibly. Russell broke with historic Christian teachings to start a group which became known as Jehovah's Witnesses. Russell's successor as head of the Jehovah's Witnesses' Watchtower Society was Joseph Rutherford. He said, "Millions now living will never die" and predicted 1925 would be the year the world would end. However, 1925 passed uneventfully, and Rutherford died in 1943.

There have been many attempts to set a timetable for Jesus’ coming, and they've all been wrong. To some people, the failed predictions are proof that they don’t need to take Jesus’ return seriously at all. However, bad predictions don't prove Jesus wrong. They prove him right. Jesus said plainly, "You do not know on what day your Lord will come" (Matthew 24:42). "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority" (Acts 1:7). The only way anyone could be right about the exact date of the second coming is if Jesus himself turned out to be wrong.

2012. Family of Faith
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