Some wise words from Eric Landry:

We must be very careful about how we respond. Will we join our friends at the “Rapture Parties” that are planned for pubs and living rooms around the nation? Will we laugh at those who have spent the last several months of their lives dedicated to a true but untimely belief? What will we say on Saturday night or Sunday morning?

History teaches us that previous generations caught up in eschatological fervor often fell away from Christ when their deeply held beliefs about the end of the world didn’t pan out. While Camping must answer for his false teaching at the end of the age, Reformational Christians are facing a pastoral problem come Sunday morning: how can we apply the salve of the Gospel to the wounded sheep who will be wandering aimlessly, having discovered that what they thought was true (so true they were willing to upend their lives over it) was not? If this isn’t true, they might reason, then what other deeply held beliefs and convictions and doctrines and hopes might not be true?

It’s at this point that we need to be ready to provide a reasonable defense of our reasonable faith. Christianity is not founded upon some complex Bible code that needs years of analysis to reveal its secret. Christianity is about a man who claimed to be God, who died in full public view as a criminal, and was inexplicably raised from the dead three days later appearing to a multitude of witnesses. When his followers, who witnessed his resurrection, began speaking of it publicly, they connected the prophecies of the Old Testament to the life and death and resurrection of this man who claimed the power to forgive sins. This is the heart of the Christian faith, the message that deserves to be featured on billboards, sides of buses, and pamphlets all over the world.  It is also the message that needs to be reinvested into the hearts and lives of those who found hope and meaning in Harold Camping’s latest bad idea.

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28 thoughts on “The Pastoral Challenge and Opportunity When the Rapture Doesn’t Happen”

  1. Andrew says:

    I wouldn’t call it a “true but untimely belief.” The ‘Rapture’ is not true.

    1. Brian says:

      Thank you, Andrew. You beat me to it.

    2. Scott C says:

      So you don’t believe in 1 Thess. 4:16-17?

      1. Michael Shafran says:

        Just to be clear, the “rapture” camping holds to is not dispensational. He is “way off the dispo chart!” So please don’t lump him with those who hold a pretrib rapture. The same way I wouldn’t call him “reformed” though he talks about “election.” He has his own unique theology. He does not represent dispensationalists or reformed- I guess he holds to campingism!

      2. Phil says:

        @Scott C: It’s *extremely* rude to slam someone as “not believing” the Scripture simply because they have a different take on it. The arrogant premise behind your statement — and thus your words — is that those who “don’t believe” YOUR interpretation do not believe in the Bible either.

        1. Scott C says:

          My point is, everybody who is an orthodox Christian believes in the rapture regardless of what eschatological persuasion they are.

          1. Michael Bridge says:

            The passage you quoted seems to simply be talking about the resurrection of the dead (which comes first) and then the rest of the faithful Christians who are still living at the time of the second coming. It says nothing about “the rapture” (this very recent concept) in relation to the millenium and people being left behind. And the context of the passage if you back up a few verses is that Paul is telling them not to be saddened by those who have died in the faith because they will be raised first. They died in the hope of the resurrection, and they will be resurrected and brought to Christ first. Paul doesn’t seem to have any concept of our modern “rapture” stuff in mind. Jesus will come back and raise the dead first, then bring the faithful living to him. He doesn’t say much more about the subject other than that, at least not in 1 Thess.

            1. Scott C says:

              Michael,
              You may need to read some good books on eschatology. This passage is a critical text regardless of what eschatological persuasion you are. Furthermore, the rapture is simply another word for saying that believers will be caught up into the air with their Lord when he returns. Non-dispensationalists don’t like the word because they believe it has been hijacked. That doesn’t mean its not a good word.

    3. Josh Crews says:

      What’s true about the belief is that Jesus will return and end the present age and that should be shaping today as if it were to happen in the next few months even though we don’t know when it will happen.

  2. Brian says:

    I wounder If anybody will try to help out his followers, who have sold off so much, financially…some may have nothing Sunday morning with a long life ahead of them.

  3. Chris M says:

    Why do I feel like the elect can not and will not fall away.

    1. Matthew says:

      Chris,

      True enough, but if there are true sheep in this false teachers fold, it doesn’t mean they won’t be hurt by the deception. A truth like election is meant for our assurance, not as an excuse to be lax in pastoral care or to shirk human responsibility. Ultimately, genuine faith will persevere through this by the grace of God. But we shouldn’t be so callous as to then allow wounded brothers and sisters to ‘wander aimlessly’ or in hurt confusion for any longer than they need to.

      Landry’s words are a very appropriate call to compassion, both evangelistically and within the family of God.

      1. Chris M says:

        I totally agree

  4. I just love it that this guy has raised millions and millions of dollars for this message. What could that money have done in gospel ministry and witness rather than put into doomsday prophecy that never turns anyone’s heart to Christ. Thanks for constantly bringing us back to the “reasonable message” of our “reasonable faith”. Let’s not worry about this false prophet, let God deal with him.

  5. Stan Ermshar says:

    Listening to Family radio today, when it is obvious that it is May 22 in much of the world, they are acting like business as usual. They are still soliciting funds.

    I think the deal is that most of Camping’s employees, who do other broadcasts during the day which are quite good, don’t believe what Camping taught. They never mention May 21.

    They do play great worshipful Christian music.

    It is a shame that Harold Camping brought a previously good ministry down so far.

    Stan

  6. John Thomson says:

    Everyone who is Christian believes in the rapture. To be ‘caught up’ in 1 Thess 4 is to be raptured. The only Christian is where and how this event fits into your eschatological scheme.

    How do we describe Camping? Is he a false teacher?

    1. Chris M says:

      It probably will not be secret though.

    2. Ron Henzel says:

      John,

      Campings teachings go pretty far beyond setting dates for the Rapture. He also teaches that all churches are apostate, that all church offices have ceased, that baptism and the Lord’s Supper should no longer be practiced, and that believers should simply join informal fellowships in which they read Camping’s literature and talk about what they heard on Family Radio that week.

      Cult leader. False teacher. Heretic. All these terms come to mind.

    3. James Ramsay says:

      John,

      You are playing pure “no true scotsman” fallacy. Also the Rapture™* is an exceedingly North American belief that has little traction in the rest of the world. The idea of the Rapture™ depends upon 1 Thess 4, but 1 Thess 4 does not exclusively point to the idea of the Rapture™.

      * By which I mean the idea that we will know it is the end of the world when all the Christians float up to heaven and hang around while God punishes those left behind. What is talked about in 1 Thess 4 varies wildly from what is described by versions of the Rapture™.

  7. Dave says:

    How ever false this May 21st teaching may be it is well advertised and a lot of attention has been brought to it in most secular media. So unlike most good theologians, normal people are talking about what this guy has said. So lets just take advantage of this whole dooms day thing and use it to start real conversations with people we know about what they believe about God and tell them the Gospel. People really struggle to talk about matters of faith with people they know and strangers and we have a wonderful “ice breaker” here. I am a big fan of Ray Comfort and the Way of the Master for the reason that I now speak to more people about what the Gospel means than ever before and a huge part of sharing the Gospel is simply talking about God. A big part of the Way of the Master course is simply breaking the ice and bringing up the subject of God can be awkward at the best of times. I believe that while this May 21st thing is still on people’s minds that we use this. I encourage you, ask a friend “so were you ready for the end of the world?” or “did you think the end would come?”. “What do you think about that may 21st thing?”

    See where it goes, see what they believe and ask them if they have ever heard the Gospel. Check out http://www.wayofthemaster.com/

  8. Jarod says:

    The “secret rapture” was invented by John Darby (1800-1882).

  9. Hushai says:

    The when, where, how and time? I don’t see why these discussions even come up. Jesus said, “Only the Father knows”. Why is this so hard to understand? …. Pre-tribulation, a-tribulation, post-tribulation or millenniums…. Just be ready! That’s all we’re asked to be. People who believe as Camping have been around for years; Millerites, JWs. They have always predicted and have always been wrong. Is there anything new here? False prophets are false prophets. Know the truth for the truth will make you free. Camping and his followers need or prayers not our condemnation. When we stop being fallible humans than we can judge.

  10. John Thomson says:

    ‘False prophets are false prophets. Know the truth for the truth will make you free. Camping and his followers need or prayers not our condemnation. When we stop being fallible humans than we can judge’

    To call someone a ‘false prophet’ is to judge. Not that judging is a wrong thing. What is church discipline but appropriate judging. In fact we are called to so judge.

    1John 4:1-3 (ESV)
    Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

    1Thess 5:19-22 (ESV)
    Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

    1Cor 2:15 (ESV)
    The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.

    1Cor 5:12 (ESV)
    For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?

  11. Hushai says:

    Sorry John. I wasn’t judging. I was just stating a fact. Mr Camping judged himself when his prophecy didn’t come true. To judge would be to say that because of the failed prophecy, Mr. Camping was no longer a saved person. I was not judging but testing. First John 4 & First Thess 5. To judge would to state something about Mr. Camping that I had no way of knowing if it were true. Only God knows what’s in a man’s heart so I’m not judging outsiders. First Cor 5

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Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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