Atheists around the world are staging mock rapture parties tonight, delighted that enthusiastic believers were mistaken in “guaranteeing” that Jesus would come May 21. What should be our attitude toward those deluded and now disappointed brothers and sisters in Christ?
It’s hard to feel any pity for Harold Camping himself. He could have and should have known better. When his previous apocalyptic prediction failed in 1994, he offered no apologies. Possibly his prophetic ignorance back then was exceeded only by his arrogance. (It remains to be seen what his reaction is this time–he hasn’t been heard from, as of this writing.) Not surprisingly, given his reaction in 1994, Camping didn’t learn his lesson and caused even greater chaos among his small circle of followers. My sympathies are for them, not him.
Who are the people who sold themselves out for Camping’s erroneous teaching? Obviously not experienced Bible students–naive, for sure. Perhaps most of them just wanted Jesus to come so much that they latched onto a particular date that Camping made plausible to them.
How should we relate to them? Gently. The Bible says that Jesus in heaven’s sanctuary has compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray (Hebrews 5:2). We must do no less, in meekness instructing them who oppose themselves, hoping that God will give them the knowledge of His truth (see 2 Timothy 2:25).
Something else is certain: just because one false prophet led a few people astray, we must not give up (or play down) our own understanding and proclamation of Bible prophecy. “We have a more sure word of prophecy, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).
Jesus is coming. Soon! We don’t know exactly when, and we don’t need to know. We just need to be faithful to our mission, heeding and proclaiming the signs that are fulfilling so quickly now. And with the end of all things at hand, we must “above all things have fervent love one for another” (1 Peter 1:22). Including love for deluded rapturists.