Saturday, May 21, 2011

Matt 24 watch, 125: The Camping case -- is a strawman being set up?

I am astonished to see the amount of global media attention being paid to the ongoing Camping story of predicting the end of the world later today. 

Yesterday, as well, I ran into an emissary of Mr Camping by the rum shop in front of the local hospital, and tried to have a conversation with him. He seemed to be a man running with a message; according to his report, having toured several Caribbean islands in the past several weeks.

I fear however, that we are facing a media set-up for an attempted credibility kill.

I think so, since:
(i) the prediction is very likely indeed to be an error, and since  also

(ii) the highly secularised Western media are by and large hostile to biblical Christian faith, so I suspect 

(iii) that we are seeing a caricatured strawman being set up to be knocked over, thus 

(iv) ridiculing and further discrediting the gospel and associated Bible-believing Christian faith in the minds of many.  
Supporting this, I find that the immediate corrections to Mr Camping's key theological error by the better instructed are by no means being anywhere so headlined; at least at global level. And, even here, where panels of theological spokesmen were asked to comment or discuss, the resulting debates and talking points on particular schools of thought of eschatology were probably more apt to confuse rather than to clear up.  

Indeed, I note that as I spoke with a young man who stood by as I had tried to talk briefly with the representative, his complaint was that he believes in and reaches out to God but is confused over the complicated wranglings and debates in the various conflicting churches. Oh, how we need to repent of our divisiveness in light of Jesus' prayer in John 17, even as the betrayer from his inner circle was coming towards the Garden with those who would arrest our Lord:
  Jn 17: 20Neither for these alone do I pray [it is not for their sake only that I make this request], but also for all those who will ever come to believe in (trust in, cling to, rely on) Me through their word and teaching,
    21That they all may be one, [just] as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe and be convinced that You have sent Me.
    22I have given to them the glory and honor which You have given Me, that they may be one [even] as We are one:
    23I in them and You in Me, in order that they may become one and perfectly united, that the world may know and [definitely] recognize that You sent Me and that You have loved them [even] as You have loved Me. [AMP]
It is plainly worth pausing right away to highlight the key Bible-teaching blunder at work, based on two key texts of scripture, both from the mouth of our Lord, and both responding to eschatological speculation, in Matt 24 and Ac 1:
Mt 24:3While He was seated on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately and said, Tell us, when will this take place, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end (the completion, the consummation) of the age?
    4Jesus answered them, Be careful that no one misleads you [deceiving you and leading you into error].
    5For many will come in (on the strength of) My name [[b]appropriating the name which belongs to Me], saying, I am the Christ (the Messiah), and they will lead many astray.
    6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened or troubled, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.
    7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in place after place;
    8All this is but the beginning [the early pains] of the [c]birth pangs [of the [d]intolerable anguish].
    9Then they will hand you over to suffer affliction and tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.
    10And then many will be offended and repelled and will [e]begin to distrust and desert [Him Whom they ought to trust and obey] and will stumble and fall away and betray one another and pursue one another with hatred.
    11And many false prophets will rise up and deceive and lead many into error.
    12And the love of [f]the great body of people will grow cold because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity,
    13But he who endures to the end will be saved.
    14And this good news of the kingdom (the Gospel) will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then will come the end . . . . 

36But of that [exact] day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father . . . .

43But understand this: had the householder known in what [part of the night, whether in a [v]night or a morning] watch the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have allowed his house to be [w]undermined and broken into.
    44You also must be ready therefore, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him. [AMP]

 Ac 1:6So when they were assembled, they asked Him, Lord, is this the time when You will reestablish the kingdom and restore it to Israel?
    7He said to them, It is not for you to become acquainted with and know [b]what time brings [the things and events of time and their definite periods] or fixed [c]years and seasons (their critical niche in time), which the Father has appointed (fixed and reserved) by His own choice and authority and personal power.
    8But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth.
It could not be plainer than that. 

It is not given to us to know the exact time or date of the return of Christ as Lord and Judge at the end of history, but we do know that as history reaches culmination there will be an escalating contest of truth and rescue with deception and chaos driven by evil. But in the midst of this, the saving, transforming gospel goes forth in power to all nations, and that is our primary focus.

In addition, on a secondary debate, we should note the principle of partial fulfillment, where by the patterns of the prophetic dynamic will find fulfillment at various times and places, even though there is an ultimate fulfillment that is yet to come. In this case, the events of the 30's - 70's AD in C1 Judaea and Samaria plainly foreshadow and partly overlap with the trends of the culmination of the ages.  So, the disasters that happened as Israel chafed under Rome, and rose up in rebellion in 66 AD, leading to defeat, siege of Jerusalem and exile, point to what seems to be on our plate in our time. 

It is against that backdrop that I find it highly significant that the real message of the gospel that Jesus came, fulfilling the prophecies of the Scriptures, died as our Saviour, and rose as our Lord and Judge, is not at all being headlined. 

Similarly, it is highly significant that on the subject of the end of times, we are not hearing hear a clear report that the key teaching of the Christian faith is not that today is the last day, but instead that there is a day that has been set on which we will face judgement in light of righteousness -- a day attested to by God raising Jesus from the dead with 500 eyewitnesses and pouring out his Spirit in power that created and commissioned the church to carry the gospel in peaceful witness to all nations. 

Let me close off this post, therefore with an exchange I had yesterday at the Uncommon Descent blog, with an advocate of evolutionary materialism:

EZ: >> . . .  I hope you all have a good weekend, not interrupted by the Rapture as predicted by I’d like to be able to continue conversing in the future. But if the Rapture really is coming I’m in for a pretty hideous time. >>

You enjoy your weekend.

I actually ran into a young man today from the organisation promoting the date setting for the end of the world, next to the rum shop in front of the local hospital. Tried to ask him about date setting and the Bible’s prohibition on that.

He was not really listening, ran into a wound up spiel. Said he had been all over the Caribbean in the past several weeks, handing out booklets and books. He did look tired.

However, we can be pretty sure date setters are in error, per say Mt 24:36. But, it seems there is a temptation that some cannot resist.

What is far more serious is Paul’s statement in Ac 17, and remember this is eyewitness lifetime report (cf here on the minimal facts analysis):

Ac 17:26And He made from one [common origin, one source, one blood] all nations of men to settle on the face of the earth, having definitely determined [their] allotted periods of time and the fixed boundaries of their habitation (their settlements, lands, and abodes),
27So that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after Him and find Him, although He is not far from each one of us.
28For in Him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your [own] poets have said, For we are also His offspring.
29Since then we are God’s offspring, we ought not to suppose that Deity (the Godhead) is like gold or silver or stone, [of the nature of] a representation by human art and imagination, or anything constructed or invented.
30Such [former] ages of ignorance God, it is true, ignored and allowed to pass unnoticed; but now He charges all people everywhere to repent ([d]to change their minds for the better and heartily to amend their ways, with abhorrence of their past sins),
31Because He has fixed a day when He will judge the world righteously (justly) by a Man Whom He has destined and appointed for that task, and He has made this credible and given conviction and assurance and evidence to everyone by raising Him from the dead.(B) [AMP]

Okay, all best.>>

I believe that we need to set sensationalistic date setting in proper context, and return to a balanced view on the central issue, the gospel. For, we all will account before our Creator for our lives. Let us therefore heed the gospel, and find salvation and blessing. END

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