Today, December 21, 2012, is the day the world did not end. For years now people have been predicting, blogging, writing dozens of books and making movies claiming the Mayan calendar tells us the world ends today. News flash: It didn’t.
For centuries Christians have also been notorious for setting dates when the world would end or Christ would return. News flash: They’ve all been wrong.
Harold Camping, a Christian radio broadcaster, predicted that Christ would return on May 21, 2011. The prophecy made national news. Many of his followers paid for billboards, took out full-page ads in newspapers and distributed thousands of tracts about this day of reckoning. An engineer spent most of his retirement savings, well over a half-million dollars, on full-page newspaper ads and an RV that he had custom-painted with doomsday warnings. When May 21 came and went as normal, Harold Camping revised his prediction to October 21, 2011. Of course, that prediction failed too.
What happened to those who had so fervently believed? Tom Bartlett reported that a father of three boys had his faith so shaken that he apologized on Facebook to the friends he had tried to convert. He said, “You know what? I think I was part of a cult.”
A gifted young musician had abandoned music, quit his job, and essentially put his life on hold for four years. It had cost him friends and created a rift between some members of his family. After the failed prediction he wrote that he had “definitely lost an incredible amount of faith” and hadn’t touched his Bible in months. The problem was not, of course, that the Bible was wrong, but that Camping was wrong.
Later Camping admitted his error, but it was too late for those who had believed a false prophet. Their money and sometimes their faith was gone. The tragedy of it is compounded by the clarity of Deuteronomy 18:21-22. There Moses says clearly that we should only believe a prophet after the prediction comes true.
You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?” 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 prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.
Moses is saying that we can’t know if someone is a true prophet ahead of time. Only after the fact will we know. So do not trust a prophet of the future before what is predicted actually happens. Knowing the future is not to be the focus of the Christian life. Christ is.
A good Christmas reminder.