The prediction had been all over the press after a California preacher blanketed the country with ads warning: “Global Earthquake: The Greatest Ever! Judgment Day May 21, 2011.” ABC News reported that “the expectation [for this day] was that . . . more than 200 million people would be swept up to heaven in the Rapture while the rest of humanity would suffer five months of unspeakable misery before the ultimate end of the world in October” (“Apocalypse Now?: ‘Rapture 2011’ Comes and Goes Quietly,” May 21, 2011).
While the vast majority of people mocked the notion, a number of supporters were utterly convinced, despite a failed prediction of the end of days in Sept. 1994. One man spent his entire life savings of $140,000 on subway and bus system ads in New York City (NewsCore, “New York Man Spends Life Savings Ahead of May 21 Doomsday,” May 14, 2011).
Of course, many mocked when nothing happened—especially when right away the end was simply declared to be five months later (Josh Vorhees and Ben Johnson, “. . . New Rapture Date of Oct. 21: California Preacher Says May 21 Was Only ‘an Invisible Judgment Day,’” Slate.com, May 24, 2011).
There are a few issues that should be highlighted here. Perhaps the most obvious is the gullibility of people to believe the false predictions of those who’ve already proven themselves false. The Bible tells us: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed” (Deuteronomy 18:22, NIV). But people become invested in their choices and loyalties—and, the human heart being deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), stubbornly persist in error.
One resultant tragedy of such false predictions is that they tend to discredit the truth of what the Bible actually does say about Christ’s second coming in the minds of many unfamiliar with God’s Word.
Something further to note are the reasons people reject such predictions. Many who believe Jesus Christ will return to the earth reject date setting on the seemingly reasonable basis of what He said about the timing of His coming: “But of that day and hour no one knows. . . but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Certainly date setting has had a rather poor track record. However, we need to realize that many of this mind-set take Christ’s words to mean that He could return at any moment, which is wrong according to the Bible.
Jesus in the same passage gave indicators to signal when His coming was near. And other passages actually lay out a timeline of events that must transpire before Christ comes—including the cutting off of sacrifices in Jerusalem and the commencement of the Great Tribulation 3 1/2 years before(request or download our free booklets You Can Understand Bible Prophecy and The Middle East in Bible Prophecy). Since sacrifices haven’t even started yet, we can’t claim that the Tribulation will start tomorrow—much less that Jesus will return tomorrow.
Many get around this with their concept of “the rapture.” They argue that Jesus could return at any moment to take believers to heaven and that the prophesied events such as the Tribulation will come after that—at the end of which Jesus will return again with believers to reign. Yet while God does offer protection for His people during the time of Tribulation, nowhere is it stated that this will be in heaven. Rather, the prophetic outline makes it clear that believers do not ascend to meet Christ until He returns at the last of seven trumpets (see our free booklet The Book of Revelation Unveiled).
As for this conception of the rapture, the Bible doesn’t teach it. It should be clarified, however, that the English word rapture itself literally just means being “suddenly caught up,” and the Bible does mention that happening. The apostle Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 that at Christ’s triumphant return to the earth, living believers “shall be caught up together with [those who died in the faith] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”
Yet while the catching up of believers to meet Christ is certainly biblical, where many have placed the timing of this event with the rapture doctrine is not.
Most who espouse “the rapture” are more technically described as “pretribulationists” who believe in a “pre-Tribulation rapture”—typically mistaken in thinking the Tribulation is seven years, with it turning “Great” at the halfway point. There are also “midtribulationists” who believe in a “mid-Tribulation rapture,” thinking the catching away occurs at that supposed halfway point, 31/2 years before Christ’s return. Finally, there are “posttribulationists,” who believe in a “post-Tribulation rapture,” wherein the catching up of believers to meet Christ in the air comes at the end of the 3 1/2-year Great Tribulation period. While the latter position is closer than the others to what the Bible teaches, the term rapture is still problematic, given all the false conception surrounding it.
To be clear, the popular rapture doctrine is false. There is no rapture of believers months or years in advance of Christ’s actual second coming. Rather, believers will be caught up to meet Christ right before returning with Him to the earth—after having been alive on earth through the 3 1/2-year Tribulation period.
So again, Christ will not return tomorrow—because the conditions for His return have not yet been met. Nor will He return next year in 2012, when many think the world might end, as the length of time required for the Tribulation will not allow for that.
Sadly, many people shook their heads at the recent pronouncements not because the predictions are unbiblical, as they clearly are, but because these people don’t believe in Bible prophecy or Christ’s soon coming at all. Some even reject the Bible altogether. Tragically, here is more fuel for that fire—false predictions and gullible followers creating an opportunity for the mocking of Bible believers by painting all with a broad brush.
Lastly, this has been a cause for more of what is prophesied in the Bible about the time before Jesus’ return: “Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come. . . They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4, NIV). The more failed predictions there are, the more of such scoffing there will be. There will no doubt be more after October. And there will be more when the world doesn’t end in 2012.
The enemy, Satan the devil, is working to get people to have wrong notions about the end of the age—and to get many to pay no serious attention at all to anynotion of the end. (Sources: ABC News, NewsCore, Slate.com.)