In case of the rapture, this column will be empty next week.
I think most of us have been inundated this week with the story of the coming apocalypse. With the approach of May 21–the day Harold Camping and his followers have designated as Judgment Day–the rumors, the gossip, and even the news stories of the coming rapture have escalated. A friend of mine even put a poll on her Facebook page:
“Do you think Jesus is coming to get us on Saturday?”
Now, the first thing that stands out about that question is her faith. She didn’t ask, “Will the world end Saturday?” or even “Is the rapture Saturday?”
No, she asked, “Do you think Jesus coming to get us on Saturday?” as if she knew He was coming someday, and she knew He was going to get her. She just wasn’t sure just when.
In reply, I posted, “Matthew 24:36,” which basically summarizes my feeling about the entire subject.
After all, this isn’t the first time I’ve come face-to-face with someone’s misguided worldwide “endgame theory.” In fact, the first time I was told when my Lord and Savior was returning was way back in the late 1970s, when the word was passed to me at the most unlikely of locations–the Ocean City boardwalk.
My family had been coming to Ocean City for summer vacation for years, so I was very familiar with the ins and outs of that particular boardwalk. Johnson’s Popcorn, Wonderland Pier, Mack and Manco’s, The Smuggler Shop…as I walked the boards, I knew just what I was going to find.
But this particular summer, I spotted something curious, something I didn’t remember from other trips to the boards. Right outside Music Pier, leaning against the gray metal fencing that guarded walkers from falling onto the beach, a group of young people had gathered. They appeared to be my age–late teens, early 20s–and they were holding signs proclaiming the return of YAHWEH and the end of the world.
I have to say, I was curious. As a young person, I would have probably identified myself as a Catholic, but I certainly wasn’t practicing. In fact, I was attending Valparaiso University, a Lutheran college in Indiana, at the time.
I didn’t identify myself as Lutheran, either–I just went with whatever school offered the most money. I knew I was a Christian in that I believed in Jesus, but I was a seeker. I had yet to find the religion or the organization that would satisfy my soul.
And then there was this–one of the members of the group, one of the guys holding a sign proclaiming Pope Paul VI to be the beast of Revelation, was someone I knew from Discovery, a youth group held in St. Anne’s Church during my high school days. I have to admit that I was curious. After all, there seemed to be a big disconnect from Catholic youth group member to a messenger of the coming apocalypse.
So in the two weeks I was on vacation, I spent time talking to these kids. They told me they were members of the Restored Nation of Yahweh and followers of Leo Volpe, who they believed was the prophet Jeremiah reborn.
They even took me to his home and introduced me to the “prophet,” who seemed big on end-time prophecy, quoting heavily from Daniel and Revelation. He predicted that the world would come to an end in 1985.
Despite the protests of some of the group’s members (big red flag there!), I returned to Valparaiso. Right before I did, Pope Paul VI died–and with him, part of the group’s prophecy.
The next summer, I was surprised to see them still there. No more anti-Pope message, though–this time it was all about the 1985 end time. But by that time, I knew that the true God would remain true to His word–not just paint up a new set of posters the next time a prophecy failed.
And it’s that promise–that God is true to His word–that I used to comfort my daughter this week. A friend had told her that the world was coming to an end on Saturday (the 9-year-old was told this by her grandmother!). Libby, understandably distraught, asked me about what she heard.
“We believe the Bible is the word of God, right? So let’s see what the word of God has to say,” I told her, and I turned to Matthew 24:36.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” she read.
“See? If the angels don’t know, and Jesus doesn’t know, do you really think Bree’s grandmom knows when the world is going to end?” I asked her.
Judgment Day–just like everything else–is in God’s hands. Harold Camping doesn’t know, Leo Volpe (who died in 2000) didn’t know. The best we can do is to live in anticipation of His return, every day He decides to give us.