taking the words of Jesus seriously

Although the Second Coming is a certainty – Christ will return, and the kingdoms of this world will then become the kingdom of our God – Jesus himself said that it is futile to pinpoint its precise date (See Matthew 24:34-42). Recently, a group has emerged declaring Judgment Day to be May 21st, a little less than three weeks from today. With this proposed date, like every proposed date before it, speculation is rising as people debate whether this is the “actual date” of the Second Coming.

But Christians have spent the last 2, 000 years guessing at the specific date of the Second Coming. Beginning with early Christians who thought that Christ would return before John died (they used John 21:22-23 as their basis for this) and continuing through our current day it is evident that Christians have never stopped date guessing.

Today, fortunes have been amassed by Bible preachers from supposedly reading the signs of the times — signs that are usually recent and current events, particularly in the Middle East, events that supposedly must occur before the Second Coming itself.

Yet this reasoning, this interpretation runs counter to what Jesus said: everything that had to be fulfilled before the Second Coming would be fulfilled before his generation died out. Even Paul expected the return of Christ in his immediate future. Yet modern prophecy preachers imply that Paul didn’t understand the Scriptures as well as they do, and that of course Jesus could not have returned in the first century — not before any one of several events of the 20th and 21st centuries that prophecy preachers point to as prerequisites of the Second Coming.

Such an assumption is arrogant. I believe that Paul was not mistaken and that modern prophecy preachers are inflating current happenings in the world with a prophetic significance that is utterly unbiblical.

May 21, 2011 will come and go, just like every other ‘judgment day’ throughout our history. Our focus cannot be on any date or time but rather what we do in the here and now. Rather than predicting date after date let us focus on the needs of those around us. Let us care for the widow and the orphan as James says. If people spent as much time caring for the needs of those around them as they did predicting the Second Coming of Christ this world would be a much more devout place.

About The Author


Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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