Why the Interest in Judgment Day Predictions?

According to Harold Camping, May 21, 2011 was supposed to be the Judgment day. Here we are, a couple days later, and we are still waiting for the Judgment. This was not the first time for Camping to make such a prediction. He is also not the only one who has presumed to announce the date of this event. Despite all of the failed prophecies, there are still many people willing to believe that someone like Camping has figured out the date of the final Judgment. They ignore the Scriptures that say, “of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36), and “the day of the Lord will come like a thief” (2 Peter 3:10). But why?

Why is there such an intense desire to know the exact date of the Lord’s return? I want us to consider a few possibilities here. But first, let me clearly state that I am not claiming to know the motives of Camping or any of his followers. However, for anyone that wants to know the date of the Judgment, even though the Scriptures reveal no date and contain no code for us to decipher in order to determine the date, there is an underlying problem that needs to be confronted. So let us consider some possibilities as to why some religious people have such an interest in this.

They Want to Know What God Knows

This is how the first sin was committed — Eve wanted to have divine knowledge. If she ate of the forbidden tree, the serpent promised, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). She saw that “the tree was desirable to make one wise,” so she took its fruit and ate (Genesis 3:6). Among the avenues of temptation the devil uses, this falls into the category of the “boastful pride of life” (1 John 2:16).

The date of the Judgment is unknown even to Jesus and the angels (Matthew 24:36). Who then are we that we should have this knowledge when Jesus does not even know? This is simply arrogance — trying to feed that desire for the “boastful pride of life.

We need to be content with what God has chosen to reveal to us. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). God has given us “everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us” (2 Peter 1:3). The Scriptures make us “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Everything we need to know about God and how to please Him is found in His word. If God has not revealed something, it is because we do not need to know it. This is true for the date of the Lord’s return — God has not revealed the date because we do not need to know it.

They Desire Exclusive Knowledge

Having knowledge that others do not have can lead to arrogance. Paul wrote, “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies” (1 Corinthians 8:1). The apostle’s point is not that it is somehow wrong to seek or to have knowledge. After all, we are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). In context, Paul is arguing that those who understand (have knowledge) that idols are nothing, and therefore understand that the eating of meats used in the worship of the idol is of no consequence, they should not exercise their liberty if it would encourage a weaker brother without such knowledge to eat these meats when they believe it is wrong to do so.

However, this knowledge and understanding was not to be kept exclusively for certain individuals and withheld from others. The sharing of our knowledge through teaching is emphasized in the New Testament (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; 8:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:8). The knowledge of the truth about these idols was to be taught to these weaker brethren. But this desire for exclusive knowledge — knowledge that would be withheld or hidden from others — is rooted in arrogance.

Obviously, Camping and his followers were actively sharing their “knowledge” that the Judgment was to happen on May 21. But there is more to teaching than just sharing knowledge. We must teach in such a way that we cause others to be able to understand (Ephesians 3:4; Nehemiah 8:8) as they examine the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). It should even be clear enough that those we teach would then be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).

When one reads Camping’s explanation for how he “knew” the Judgment would come on May 21, he cannot take the “knowledge” he learns, and either verify it from the Bible or explain it to others using the word of God. Camping’s use of passages taken out of context combined with his math formulas that have no basis in Scripture do not constitute a body of doctrine such that “when you read you can understand” (Ephesians 3:4). When a doctrine cannot be comprehended or explained, but only accepted or rejected, that should be a red flag for us. The knowledge of God’s word is not exclusive, but was meant to be understood by all who would study it with an honest heart (cf. John 7:17).

They Want a Deadline

Many people claim to work better when they have a deadline. In reality, what a lot of people do when they have a deadline is they put off work until the very end. The project at work that is due at the end of the month isn’t started until the final week. The school paper that a student has had weeks to work on does not get written until the night before it is due. This procrastination can be the result of laziness, or it could be that other things have been allowed to take precedence until the end. In either case, the general tendency of many is to put off doing what needs to be done until the last minute.

What if we could know the date of the Judgment? What would be the tendency of a large percentage of people?

  • Non-Christians would wait to obey the gospel. Yet the New Testament clearly depicts obeying the gospel to be an urgent matter. The Philippian jailer was baptized “that very hour of the night” (Acts 16:33). Prior to his conversion, Paul was told, “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). It is certainly true that those who obey at the end will still be saved (Matthew 20:1-15). But again, we do not know when the end will be. Therefore, there is an urgent need for those who are outside of the body of Christ to obey the gospel, rather than putting it off.
  • Christians would wait to repent of any sins in their lives. Though the verse is often used to persuade non-Christians to obey the gospel, Paul writes to his fellow Christians, “not to receive the grace of God in vain… Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). Repentance is not something that can be put off until later because we believe that we have plenty of time. Today is the day to repent if there is sin in our lives.
  • We would put off telling others about the gospel. Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). Our time to share the gospel with others is during the day, not just at the end of the day. Peter said we must “always [be] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). If we knew the date of the Judgment, what would inevitably happen is that teaching would be neglected until a fervent push to evangelize near the end. Peter says we must be ready and able to teach at all times.
  • We would quit doing any work. This is what some of the brethren in Thessalonica were doing. After hearing Paul describe the day of the Lord in his first letter (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:3), some concluded that this day was imminent. Therefore, they quit working (2 Thessalonians 3:11), just as some of Camping’s followers did. Yet Paul said this was unacceptable. “Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread,” and “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (2 Thessalonians 3:12,10).

We see from the Scriptures that God wants us to go about our normal lives — working and carrying out the responsibilities that we have here. But He also wants us to be prepared at all times because “the day of the Lord will come like a thief” (2 Peter 3:10). The way we prepare is by living holy lives at all times. Peter said, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14). Paul wrote, “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). We should be able to say, as Paul did, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). We must conduct ourselves as faithful followers of Christ at all times. If we were to know the date of the Judgment, that would only discourage people from making the necessary preparations and living according to God’s will in the present.


God has not revealed the date of Christ’s return. Diligently seeking to determine the date is a futile exercise. But though the date is uncertain, the fact that Christ is returning is an absolutely certainty. Therefore, let us strive to be ready for our appointment before His judgment seat, so that we can be rewarded with Heaven, rather than condemned to Hell.

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