Rachel Bomberger is the copywriter at Eerdmans. She loves reading, writing, and gospel music.
Well, here I am again. Yes, I know. You just saw me on Wednesday and my next scheduled appearance on EerdWord isn’t for another two weeks. But I felt compelled to post a hurried note this afternoon, because . . . well, I might not be here in two weeks.
What? You haven’t heard? Harold Camping, veteran end of time prognosticator, says he’s pretty sure this Saturday is “when the saints go marching in”, and I, for one, “want to be in that number.” To put it in the words of humorist Barbara Johnson, “He’s gonna toot, and I’m gonna scoot.”
Do I really believe all of Camping’s huckster-y bluster and acrobatic eschatological mathematics? Yes and no. Yes, as a Christian I do take seriously the angel’s words in Acts 1: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” But no, I don’t think Harold Camping has alone been let in on the great secret that “no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Maybe you do.
Either way, as our resident historian David Bratt reminds us, though, this kind of hubbub is hardly new. David recommends God’s Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World to help us gain a useful historical perspective for days like today — days that might (but probably won’t) mark the beginning of the end of time. (They come up surprisingly often, as it happens.) In God’s Strange Work David L. Rowe tells the story of Calvinist Baptist preacher William Miller (1782–1849), the first prominent American popularizer of using biblical prophecy to determine a specific and imminent time for Christ’s return to earth. On October 22, 1844 — a day known as the Great Disappointment – he and his followers gave away their possessions, abandoned their work, donned white robes, and ascended to rooftops and hilltops to await a Second Coming that never actually came. (Or so the story goes. The truth — as Rowe reveals — is far less titillating but just as captivating.)
For a more biblical perspective on the end of the world, we highly recommend In God’s Time: The Bible and the Future. In this sane, readable, and scholarly book Craig C. Hill addresses the enormous confusion that exists today concerning the Bible’s teaching about the future. Hill encourages Christians both to take seriously and to think sensibly about the hope of God’s ultimate victory. He includes chapters on the nature of the Bible, the history of prophecy, the meaning of apocalyptic writings, the interpretation of Daniel and Revelation, the expectations of Jesus, and the hopes of the early Christians — and he even provides an especially apt appendix (“Not Left Behind”) on the subject of the rapture.
That’s it, then, I guess. If Mr. Camping is right, I’ll see you all on the far side of eternity. If not, you can read my next review in a couple of weeks. Till then, here’s what you might call my personal take on the second coming. (Just close your eyes if the camera work is a little too “apocalypse” for you.)