21 May 2011, Judgment Day?

I was asked the other day what I thought about 21 May 2011 as the biblically-foretold date of Christ’s judgement.  I’m a bit slow and had to confess that I had heard but not read anything about it.  I started to make up for my lack.

The end of the world, or rather the Second Coming of Jesus, is confidently believed by those in the know to be on the way next month.  Forget 21 December 2012, you have seven weeks to get your act together.  The declaration is based on a whole host of confident pronouncements about the age of the world, the date of the flood, etc., all multiplied by certain “significant” numbers and usually multiplied in turn by 1000.  Equally confident predictions have been made for other dates, of course, all of them refer to 2 Peter 3:6, “…one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  I have irreverent visions of St Peter bashing his head on the Pearly Gates and moaning, “Why did I write that?”

Quite frankly, I’m not sure what to do with this amazing insight.  Am I frantically to rush about, thumping everyone on the head with a Bible (apparently it has to be a King James Bible) shouting, “Jesus is Coming”?  Or perhaps I should wear a sandwich board in the centre of town, “The end is nigh”?  Will that bring people into the Kingdom?  I seriously doubt it. 

One of the problems I have with this numerological approach to the Bible is that it makes the content or story of the Bible irrelevant; it is simply a tool in which to hide the numbers.  It’s very clever, make no mistake (which is maybe why it’s taken two thousand years before anyone worked it out).  And when it’s revealed you can, if you are so inclined, sit back and wonder at our amazing God.  But what do we learn about God?  Is he no more than a clever arithmetician?  Which stories tell us about God and which are simply hiding places for the ‘real’ message concealed in the numbers?

Our local newspaper carried its usual April Fools’ story on 1 April this year.  It was good enough, I thought, but not great.  It was certainly topical.  Our municipality is struggling with service-delivery failure in a number of departments, and fixing potholes is apparently way down the list.  The front-page story told us that the Municipality had decided to outsource the fixing of potholes…to us!  Each business and house that fronted onto a public road would be responsible for fixing potholes in its section of the road.  Do-it-yourself kits would be available (at a price) and we would be fined for failure to repair ‘our’ potholes!

It was fun and topical, but it was a little too obvious for me and lacked the ‘Wow’ factor that makes for a great April Fools’ joke.  However, the real April Fools’ joke was revealed the next day.  And it wasn’t the content of the story but the message hidden in its construction.  The joke was on me because I missed the fact that there were 17 sentences and the first letter of each one together spelt, “APRIL FOOL WE GOT YOU”.  They sure did.  Suddenly one saw that the story itself wasn’t important, it was the construction that was brilliant; and I was certainly “got”.

Is that how we are to view the Bible?  The people in it, God’s interaction with his creation, his intervention in history, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, are all of these irrelevant?  Is it all about the numbers?  If that is true, then how do we know how to get ready for 21 May 2011?  How do we even know what or who awaits us?  Is he a God of mercy or a God of destruction?  How can we trust the content of any of the Bible stories?  How do we know that this one or that is not just another numerologicaly-rich tale we haven’t yet deciphered?

Me?  I’ll take my chances with the 21st of May and trust in the plain truth of scripture and of the God who reveals himself there.  However incredible the story of a creator who loves his creatures unconditionally, and who would (and did) rather die than lose them, countless millions (including the biblical writers) have experienced this God at work in their lives.

There is more than enough mystery in the plain words of scripture to keep us all hard at work interpreting it and living it out for another few thousand years, if that’s what God wants.  But, hey, if it is to be 21 May 2011, great!  Will someone please tell my boss that I won’t be finishing that project we’re working on.

Fortunately our salvation doesn’t depend on our knowing the numbers or understanding hidden truths.  Our place in God’s family is a gift of God’s grace brought to us by the death and resurrection of Jesus (an event strangely missing from the 21 May literature).  Now that’s something worth getting excited about.

The final word belongs, I think, to a New England politician faced with the arrival of Judgement Day, also in May, 231 years ago.  It was 19 May 1780 in Hartford, Connecticut:

“At noon the skies turned from blue to grey and by mid-afternoon had blackened over so densely that…men fell on their knees and begged a final blessing before the end came.  The Connecticut House of Representatives was in session.  And as some men fell down and others clamoured for an immediate adjournment, the Speaker of the House, one Colonel Davenport, came to his feet.  He silenced them and said these words: ‘The Day of Judgement is either approaching or it is not.  If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment.  If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty.  I wish, therefore, that candles be brought.’”

(Told by Alastair Cooke in Letter from America (11 September 1953)

Related Articles:
WikiLeaks: Judgement and Hope (wonderingpreacher.wordpress.com)
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14 Comments

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14 responses to “21 May 2011, Judgment Day?

  1. Pingback: Rapture or Disappointment: 21 May 2011 | Wondering Preacher

  2. Pingback: 21 May 2011, Judgment Day? | Wondering Preacher | BuzzNow.co.in

  3. Sanjay Soni

    Hello Sir,
    am fully agreed and I believe in this matter.

    Like

  4. Hey Ian et all,
    Yes, I too would heartedly agree; and yet the Doomsdays Sayers have at least had one positive effect on me: They’ve reminded me of the immanence of Christ’s return and of the urgency of the His message of reconciliation with which we’ve been entrusted to proclaim to a dying world.

    I loved your analogy.

    In Christ,

    Mark

    Like

  5. Pingback: december 21 2012, mayan calendar, revelations | 2012 news from around the globe

  6. Top notch, Ian! God is a good author and he meant to reveal himself to us through the Word – not hide a mysterious code that only a select few could ever uncover and understand. I love your point that such speculations only serve to render the plain teachings of Scripture as nothing more than an elaborate cover up for the “real message”. In such a view, God ceases to be concerned with our hearts and whether or not we love him, but with our cleverness and our ability to discern the “secret knowledge.” In a sense he would be tricking people, intentionally keeping them out of the kingdom. This in stark contrast to the God of the Bible who has gone to great lengths to reveal himself so that as many as possible will come.

    Like

    • Mark

      Good grammar, and nice words. But of what resource are you gathering you words from?

      “This in stark contrast to the God of the Bible who has gone to great lengths to reveal himself so that as many as possible will come.”

      Really? Do you actually read the Words from “the God of the Bible”, or are they words you jotted down because they tickle your ears?
      So that as many people as possible will come?
      “For many are called, but FEW are CHOSEN.”

      “In a sense he would be tricking people, intentionally keeping them out of the kingdom.” Could God do such a thing?
      Is 28:13 11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.
      12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.
      13 But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
      Is 8:13 Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
      14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
      15 And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.

      2 Pe 2:1 ¶ But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
      2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
      3 ¶ And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
      10… Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
      11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.
      12 But these, as natural brute beasts, MADE TO BE TAKEN and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;

      Ro 9:11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
      12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
      13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
      14 ¶ What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
      15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
      16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
      17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
      18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
      19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
      20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
      21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

      Are you wanting “the God of the Bible”, or the god your fine English grammatical education speaks of in the feigned words you wrote from your own mind?

      Like

      • I hesitated to allow this comment and I must apologise to my friend Crystal for doing so as it is a disgracefully rude reaction to her comment. Sorry Crystal.

        The only reason I have ‘approved’ it is because it is the only comment that takes issue with my post and attempts to ‘put the other side’ (there was one other but it was such an unreadable rant).

        I will let my readers decide but it’s a sad reflection on a supposedly bible-based group that there is no grace at all in the angry, arrogant and judgemental reaction from this “Mark”.

        Like

        • No worries, Ian. I was far more disturbed by the things Mark implied about God than I was about the awkward ad hominem against myself.

          Besides, I’ve clearly got strong support. 🙂

          I guess you never know who will read or what will happen when you launch your words into blogosphere! 😉

          Like

        • Mark

          I’m not angry at all, nor do I speaks words against God.

          If you’ll notice, those were Words from God’s mouth, not mine.

          Allowing your readers to decide is a mistake, yet not unexpected…

          Pr 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

          May 21 IS the Day-of-Judgment!

          We have 11 days

          Like

      • Jesse Rodli

        My Dear Sir,

        My wife, whom you make such a pretentious, arrogant judgement of, has had no “fine English grammatical education” save high school and an associates at Bible college. Her gift for words is just that – a gift. She had to be encouraged for years by those who know and love her to lend her gift to a wider audience. Yet you sir, despise it, and that for a nonsequiter attack not only against her – but against God’s desire to make Himself known.

        Since you seem to fancy yourself a master of ethically interpreting the whole of the biblical revelation, have you never considered the book of Ezekiel? (You may read it in the Hebrew if you like.) How many times and in how many ways does the LORD (just for clarification, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) either instigate or allow circumstance so that the people may “know that I am the Lord”?

        How do you think all the world is to be blessed through Abraham and his seed? In what way did the pharisees reject God’s purpose for themselves? Why must the gospel be preached in all the world before the end? Why is Paul obligated to the the civilized and the uncivilized, to the wise and and the foolish?

        Anyone mildly disciplined in the reading of the word can take pop shots at any position using the whole of scripture by finding isolated texts that sound contrary. You however, seem to trust that you are really so pure of heart, so attuned to the very knowledge of God, that you feel yourself able to judge the motives of blog comments.

        Very well then, allow me to share with you my sort of arrogance. I know the woman you insulted better than anyone else walking this earth. You are WRONG about her, and this raises in me a keen desire to vindicate her character against your person (in such a way that has passed out of acceptance by society).
        You are also absurdly arrogant about understanding the mysteries of God. If you are WRONG about Him, I pity you.

        May you find the one who has done all to reveal Himself to you.

        Angry husband & simple servant, Jesse.

        Like

  7. Thanks Ray.
    I agree, “it feeds the scoffers”. The reason why we are not told is precisely because we wouldn’t know what to do with the knowledge. We would, for sure (as they seem to be doing) spend more time on talking about it and waiting for it to happen than “acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God”.

    Like

  8. This was in our Church Newsletter dated 16th Jan

    Will the world end on the 21st of May?
    Julie asked me to prepare this brief article because a group of people in America are promoting that the Rapture is going to take place on May 21, 2011. Harold Camping, a retired civil engineer says this about his group’s prediction, “Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment.”
    They are using billboards, bus stop benches, radio, TV and are passing out pamphlets on street corners. They are doing this throughout the USA. and they also have mission groups travelling throughout Latin America and Africa to spread the news outside the U.S. No doubt the hype will
    soon arrive here as well.
    It is very unfortunate when people erroneously declare a date for the end of the world. They onlybring embarrassment to the field of eschatology (the study of end times) and, more importantly, undermine God’s Word that indeed someday the Christ will return. In other words, it feeds the
    scoffers.
    We must not forget what Jesus Himself told us that repeatedly:
    · “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36)
    · “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:42) “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:44).
    · “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Matthew 25:13).
    In Luke 21:36, where we are told by Jesus to “be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you
    may be able to stand before the Son of Man”.
    This is not the first time Camping has made a bold prediction about Judgment Day. On Sept. 6, 1994, dozens of Camping’s believers gathered inside Alameda’s Veterans Memorial Building to await the return of Christ, an event Camping had promised for two years. Followers dressed children in their Sunday best and held Bibles open-faced toward heaven. But the world did not end. Camping allowed that he may have made a mathematical error. He spent the next decade running new calculations, as well as overseeing a media company that has grown significantly in size and reach. The theologian James Kreuger has been studying the end of times for 40 years and is familiar with Camping’s work. He comments “For all his learning, Camping makes a classic beginner’s mistake when he sets a date for Christ’s return. Jesus himself said in Matthew 24:36, ‘Of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my father only…. So Jesus didn’t know, yet this preacher claims to have figured it all out. Maybe if the Son of God would have
    “developed a mathematical system to interpret prophecies,” He would have had a better answer prepared for those end times questions.

    Like

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