Counting the days

When I was in the seventh grade a white-suited evangelist guaranteed that Jesus would be back in less than five years. Every 13-year-old boy at church that night had the same thought: “I will never get to have sex.”

By Brett Younger

Another evangelist is making the news frightening teenage boys. Rev. Harold Camping, president of the Family Radio Christian network, is predicting that the rapture will take place on May 21. He says that approximately 3 percent of the world’s population will be taken into heaven. Doesn’t that seem low? You and I may not be making the trip.

The May 21 guarantee has been displayed on buses, benches and billboards. Five Family Radio RVs covered with reflective lettering are traveling around the country declaring that Judgment Day is less than two weeks after Mother’s Day.

The prophetic proof that May 21 is the day to end all days is rock solid. According to Camping, the number five equals “atonement,” the number 10 equals “completeness” and the number 17 equals “heaven.” Pay attention or you may get lost. Christ died on the cross on April 1, 33 A.D. The time between April 1, 33, and April 1, 2011, is 1,978 years.

Are you still with us? If 1,978 is multiplied by 365.2422 days (the number of days in a solar year, not to be confused with the lunar year) the result is 722,449. The time between April 1 and May 21 is 51 days. Don’t get too far ahead. 51 added to 722,449 is 722,500. Five times 10 times 172 (atonement times completeness times heaven) squared also equals 722,500.

Aren’t you embarrassed that you didn’t think of this? Camping concludes that 5x10x17 is telling us a “story from the time Christ made payment for our sins until we’re completely saved.”

As if that’s not enough proof -- and what kind of heretic would need more evidence? -- May 21, 2011, is 7,000 years to the day since the first raindrops fell to start Noah’s flood. How could it be more obvious? The logic is indisputable.

Rev. Camping is not just making stuff up. He is a successful self-published author -- Time Has an End (2005), We Are Almost There! (2008), The End of the World is Almost Here! (2009), and God Gives Another Infallible Proof that Assures the Rapture Will Occur May 21, 2011 (2009). Camping writes, “I know it’s absolutely true, because the Bible is always absolutely true.” How could anyone argue with that?

Some doubters condescendingly note that Jesus said that no one would know when the end is near. Cynics also love to point out that in his 1992 book 1994? Camping predicted that the end would come on Sept. 4, 1994. He later correctly pointed out that he had made a mathematical error -- enough said.

Admittedly there’s a history of failed predictions that could be considered embarrassing. At the year 1000 a flurry of prophetic forecasts led many Christians to expect Jesus soon. William Miller predicted the Second Coming would take place in 1843. His followers, the Seventh Day Adventists, have adjusted their schedule. Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, predicted the apocalypse would be in 1914. They also have postponed the end of the world.

The best selling religious book of the 1970s was Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. The author predicted that Jesus would return within a few years. The profits from the book paid for a mansion that took three years to build. As the year 2000 approached people began finding references to Y2K in the Book of Revelation. The Left Behind series made huge money even though the kid from Growing Pains starred in the movie version.

While many so-called Christian scholars are claiming that Camping is similarly mistaken, let’s not be too hasty. What if the good reverend is right? If Harold’s calculations are correct, won’t you feel goofy if you ignore him? I have decided not to take chances.

Just in case May 21 is the end, I’m not going to be watching my cholesterol on May 20. I won’t be mowing my lawn, cleaning my refrigerator or doing the laundry. My doctor has been after me to get a colonoscopy. I have scheduled it for June.

What would it hurt to treat May 20 like a holy day? Pray. Read a psalm. Read a poem. Sing. Dance. Give something away. Listen to the people you love. Tell them how much they mean to you. Forgive old grudges. Encourage worried 13-year-old boys that everything will be fine -- no matter what.

There’s something to be said for living every day as if it were your last, because some day you’ll be right. And if God shows up, how great will that be?



OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.