As I watched the evening News, with story after story of anguish and loss, wars, floods, murders and mayhem, the anchor then turned to the story of those who believed in the Lord's imminent return by saying, "Well, fortunately, the Rapture did not happen today."
Fortunately? Really? How sad.
As Christians, we are supposed to look forward to Christ's return with joyful anticipation. Living "lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God." (2 Peter 3:11-12) Yet it seems that we have forgotten. Oh, we know it in principle, but when it comes to what we actually believe, our actions demonstrate something else. We are rather comfortable with life here and now.
Now, there is much about our lives which we would gladly change, no doubt. Difficulties with employment, health, relationships, and circumstances in general bring us to our knees on a regular basis to pray for solutions, for faith, and for God's will to prevail. But how often do we earnestly pray for Christ's return?
From the Christians who were thrown to the lions in Rome to the Puritans, our brethren in the faith have looked for the return of the Lord with great zeal and longing. True persecutions of the church and real hardships of life had Believers anxiously awaiting the day when they would be caught up in the air to meet with their returning King.
Recently a body of believers had this passion awakened in them by a man who claimed to know when it would occur. People sold homes, quit jobs, and spent or gave away their life savings in anticipation of the Rapture happening yesterday, May 21, 2011. Billboards declared the news, tracts were printed up and handed out, radio broadcasts shared the news, and people pleaded with their families and neighbors to heed the call, to repent, and to join them in awaiting the Day of the Lord.
How did the world react? Predictably, the world responded as the world always responds to zealots- with derision and mocking.
How did I react? Initially I thought it was a joke. As the date drew nearer and I heard more about it I became angry at the leader, Harold Camping. And, yes, I too laughed with the mockers.
But then I considered all of the people who so sincerely believed that it was real.
I too have wanted to believe something so very badly that I was willing to listen as the Scriptures were twisted to fit the vision of a few, rather than the clear interpretation made evident by the wider body of text. I've had my heart so set on something that seemed so right, so clearly right, that surely this really is what God meant to say. Surely this is what the will of the Lord must be. I've worn the blinders that say that the more the world mocks the more likely it is to be true.
Yes, the Lord clearly condemns in His Word the false prophets who would lead his people astray. Mr. Camping has much for which he must answer, and ultimately he must answer to the Lord. I pray that he will never again have a platform for the spread of his so-called ministry. May he be drawn back to the truth and humbly repent.
In the meantime there are a lot of hurting people now who know the shame of having been duped into believing this twister of Scripture. They must now face a continuation of life which they did not expect. What they hoped for wasn't wrong. Rather, what they hoped for was glorious and beautiful, and, yes, rapturous joy. This hope led to deepened prayer lives, earnest witnessing, realigned priorities, and obedient living.
Were they so very wrong in that?
I pray that they would not turn away from the Lord in disillusionment, but would run to Him for comfort and consolation. I pray that the church would receive them back with love and gentle care, to disciple them in the truth. There will be much untangling of the Scriptures for them- after all, if they were told that some portions of the Word meant something that they didn't, how are they to know what to believe? There are broken hearts which will need the balm of Christ to heal and the love of the church to bind them.
But I also pray that what they hoped for would become contagious in the body of Christ again. Not that we can know a specific date, but that we would recover that zeal for the Lord's return. May we plan as if His return isn't for generations, but may we live as if He's coming tomorrow.
"He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come Lord Jesus!"(Revelation 22:20)