By now, everyone knows that Harold Camping was wrong and the world did not end on May 21, 2011. Many had a good laugh. I saw Facebook posts about people being in heaven and heard people talking about leaving clothes out so it appeared they were raptured. While there is nothing wrong with having a little fun, I think we can learn some lessons from this event.
Primarily, I think most people, including Christians who believe Christ will return, did not really want the rapture to occur on May 21st. I heard people say, "I am glad we are all still here." Most are glad it did not occur because no one wanted Camping to be right and believed that Christ would not return on the predicted date because "No one knows." Matthew 24:36.
But, it goes much deeper. Most of us, me included, enjoy our life on earth and did not really want the rapture to take place. We claim the rapture could take place at any time (except on May 21, 2011, because Camping said so), but, inwardly, we really are not looking forward to it. Even with the ups and downs of life, most of us still like our lives. We really are not looking forward to going to heaven.
Paul's view of life stands in contrast to ours. In Philippians 1:21-23, Paul says, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . . . My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better." Paul knows that the next life is "far better". He desires to be in heaven and with Christ. Just think about it. If Christ raptures us, we will immediately be with Him. We will be with Christ. What an incredible moment. Mercy Me, in their song "I Can Only Imagine", captures some of the awesome anticipation of being with Christ. The best of this life pales in comparison to being with Christ. When we consider our life on earth with being in the presence of Christ, the preference is simple; we should all choose the presence of Christ. But, deep down inside, we don't get that excited because we enjoy our life too much. I think we need to reassess our perspective and have a greater anticipation of Christ's return.
In addition, we need to truly anticipate Christ's imminent return. Let me ask you a question, "If you truly believed that Camping was right and the world was ending on May 21, 2011, what would you have done on May 20th?" I heard that some of Camping's followers enjoyed what they thought were life's final moments; they bought cars they could not afford or took final, extravagant vacations. However, most of Camping's ardent followers made every effort to help people get right with God. Some spent their life savings on advertisements; others even sold their homes to raise money for the effort. These followers made incredible sacrifices because they believe the world was ending. If you truly believe Christ could return at any moment, what are you doing? Are your efforts to save people commensurate with a belief that Christ really could come at any minute? Probably not. Paul, in that same passage, wrote, "If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me." (Philippians 1:22). Is your life in the flesh fruitful? On one hand, we need to be prudent and make future plans on earth in case Christ does not return tomorrow. On the other hand, if we truly believe Christ could return at any moment, we probably need to make more of an effort to bring people to Christ.
Unfortunately, the Camping fiasco damaged the reputation of Christ around the world. To many, Camping and the Bible are a joke. How do you explain the Bible's plan for salvation when Camping claimed the same Bible said the world would end on May 21st? For many, the Bible lost all credibility. Let's overcome some of the negative by learning some lessons from this fiasco. Let's look forward to Christ's return and try to take some people with us.