The headline we’ll never see; “Harold Camping was Right! Judgment Day occurred on May 21, 2011” Many people have focused on Camping’s errors -which is understandable since there are so many to choose from. However, I’d like to focus on what he might have correct. Now looking for where he is right is like finding raisins in a pile of rabbit droppings. There are a few raisins in there, but don’t bite into the wrong one. 🙂
While I did look at my hand at 6:00 pm the other night to see if it was fading like Michael J. Fox’s in the Back To The Future photo, I was relieved to see I had not become transparent. Harold Camping’s awkward moment and Beautiful Mind heresies have not diluted the hope of two realities in my heart and mind.
1. Jesus is returning.
Since Camping has become famous and apparently quite rich distorting what the Bible teaches, I’d like to clarify the actual teaching of the Bible. The Bible teaches that Jesus will return to earth in the same way he came.
Acts 1: 9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Notice the Angel says, “He will come in like manner.” Christ will return in a literal, physical, viewable way for all to see -when he returns. The Bible teaches that Jesus died, rose, and had a REAL, actual body. Not Casper the friendly ghost body. Not a spirit type body. A real body that can and did eat -after he was raised. This is why Christianity has such hope. It is the teaching that after you die… You are still… Well, YOU! Your energies are not scattered into flowers, other people, or a cosmic amoeba. Everyone lives forever somewhere. We are unique, eternal beings. This teaching is not based on fantasy, wishful thinking, or naive folktales. This teaching is rooted in history. The facts are the lynch pins of faith. If the facts are wrong, our faith is worthless. Not my words, they come from the Apostle Paul.
17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
This account in Corinthians and Acts are written by eye witness scholars. Dr Luke was a medical professional and ancient historian who has been praised by modern historians for his accuracy and reliability. His account of the actual events was based on multiple eye witness testimony. I have a friend who was a CSI investigator for the Cincinnati police. He told me that the evidence and eye witness testimony for the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most substantiated claim in history. I say all this to help you understand that your faith is only as good as the facts it is placed in. All of Christianity hinges on ONE fact: Jesus’s death and physical resurrection. If this didn’t happen, Christ’s return and defeat of death is worthless. If it is true, however, -which I believe because the facts support the claim- there is confident hope. If we place our faith in Christ’s ability to defeat death, He will raise all of us who place our trust in Him to live eternally with God.
2. There is a final judgment.
Rob Bell is wrong. In his attempt to make God a nicer guy, he has done the opposite. Everyone I know really, really wants God to judge -at least based on their own criteria. When a skeptic says, “Why doesn’t God do something about evil..,” he is really saying, “Why won’t God judge evil.” When you see cruelty, injustice, and pain, something within every believer and skeptic wants justice. Justice is what makes us jump up from our seats at the end of the movie. When the bad guys are punished and the good guys win, something within all of us rejoices. Justice and accountability are woven into the fabric of the universe and our hearts. The idea that good is rewarded and evil is punished is the hunger of every heart. Rob Bell is right, “Love wins,” but in the words of Princess Bride, “I do not think that means what you think it means.” When God rightly, justly, and fairly punishes evil, that is an example of “love winning.” A God who lets Hitler off the hook or looks past the rapist’s crimes is not a loving God at all. So what does it mean that there is a final judgment. Romans 2 makes it clear that all of us stand before God and get a fair, impartial trial. We will be evaluated based on our own standard of right and wrong. Did we do unto others the way we wanted them to do unto us. We got mad when others gossiped, but did we gossip? We wanted others to be honest, but were we always honest? We don’t want anyone lusting after our wife, husband or daughter, so did we lust after anyone else’s spouse or child? Hmmmm… Are you seeing the problem? At the end of our life, God gives us a fair trial. The problem is obvious. A fair trial means our whole life is evaluated. When our conscience and secrets act as a prosecuting attorney, we will all fall short of our own standards -let alone God’s. So a fair trial means that we are all in trouble.
I had a conversation with a Muslim scholar, Atheist, and Rabbi on stage a few years ago. They all hoped that “If there is an afterlife” their good works would outweigh their bad works. Jesus says, “Stop fooling yourself. Your good deeds are nearly as good as you think. Your bad deeds are far worse than you can imagine.” The Bible teaches that at the end of your life, you can have fairness or forgiveness. I, for one, do not want a fair trial. As a pastor, you might think I’d be hoping for the fair trial since I have my resume “full” of good deeds. Don’t kid yourself, my heart is unkind, unloving, unwise, compaining, lustful, and on and on… When I stand before God for my trial, the LAST thing I’d ever say is “Look what I’ve done.” Instead I will throw myself at the mercy of God and say, “Thank you for what YOU have done. You died for my mistakes. You rescued me from my bad deeds. You also delivered me from my deceitful good deeds.” Christ’s death gives us the confidence that at the final judgment, we can spend eternity with God in heaven based on the assurance of His work, not our works. Grace changes everything. It keeps you incredibly humble while elevating you to the highest confidence -both at the same time.
For more information, check out www.godonomics.com or this clip