Rapture update 4: Family Radio ready to concede

I hadn’t expected this development, reported by Kyle Munson of the Des Moines Register and linked to by Joel, at least not this early. Apparently the staff of Harold Camping’s radio station Family Radio are already accepting that things are not going as planned. Their spokesman Tom Evans has said that

once we reach midnight local time in the holy city of Jerusalem … he will be ready to concede that today’s rapture is a bust.

“If it’s not going to happen then, it’s obviously not going to happen today,” Evans said, “and we were wrong.”

Jerusalem by nightNow midnight in Jerusalem is just over 90 minutes away as I write, and an hour before Camping’s predicted Rapture wave is expected to hit the US east coast. So it seems that Family Radio is prepared to call off their Rapture prediction in advance, as far as North Americans are concerned.

Well, perhaps that is a clever move to preserve at least something of their own credibility, and I suppose their business. But does Harold Camping agree with their position, or are they abandoning him?

Rapture update 3: I'm still here in England

Clock Tower - Palace of Westminster, LondonThe time has now passed for the Rapture, as predicted by Harold Camping, here in England. No earthquakes, no tornadoes, just a normal quiet Saturday, and my wife and I are still here.

I must say I wasn’t too worried that I would be raptured today, against my will, after the non-events in New Zealand, Japan and indeed anywhere to the east of this green and pleasant land.

The only reported event in the Orient today which could even remotely be considered a sign of the Rapture or the allegedly coming Tribulation was a landslide in Malaysia which killed at least eight children and perhaps quite a lot more. This was of course a tragic event of course for those involved. But it was caused by heavy rain, not an earthquake, and it “took place at about 1430 local time” so ahead of Camping’s predicted schedule.

So as the hours move on towards 6 pm in America, first on the East Coast and only later in Camping’s California, my advice to Americans is simple: “Don’t panic!” But just in case you might also want to avoid taking a bath at 6 pm, to avoid embarrassment.

Meanwhile atheist John Loftus has started a meme on My Predictions of the Excuses Harold Camping May Make, and Joel has tagged me, and everyone else who read his post. So here is my prediction: Harold Camping and a small number of his followers will simply disappear, and let the word get out that these few were raptured and no one else was considered worthy. This could actually mean suicide, as I suggested before, but more likely they will find somewhere to hide away and lick their wounds. Most likely Camping, 89, will start an overdue retirement and, once the fuss has died down, never be heard of again.

These kinds of false prophets will be with us until Jesus really comes again, as he predicted. But hopefully it will be some time before any are taken as seriously as Harold Camping seems to have been.

Rapture update 2: Not another Japan earthquake

This is number 2 in my series of updates for Camping’s predicted Rapture Day, to follow on after Rapture update 1: New Zealand untouched. Don’t worry, I won’t be posting these updates every hour through the day, but just when significant times have passed.

Mount Fuji, JapanIt is now past 6 pm in Japan. They don’t have daylight saving, so we don’t have to worry about that factor. And we can thank God that he has not allowed another major earthquake today in that country already suffering so much from the March earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

If any of the small Christian minority there have been raptured, we might not know about it yet. But we would surely have heard if masses of Christians had disappeared from Sydney, Australia, where it is now after 7 pm.

I don’t have a lot of pity for most of the Christians who will probably find out by tonight that they have been deluded by Harold Camping. I think in fact there are rather few of them, mostly in the USA. They really have only themselves to blame if they put their trust in someone as unqualified as Camping, who has already shown himself untrustworthy.

But there is one group of deluded Christians for whom I have a lot of pity. As reported by the BBC no less,

In Vietnam, thousands of members of the Hmong ethnic minority gathered near the border with Laos earlier this month to await the 21 May event.

These poor people, if they are disappointed when the Rapture is supposed to come to them in just over an hour, may be left with no homes to go back to. That would be really sad. If that happens, Camping and friends ought to be held responsible.

Archdruid Eileen is right: the Christian proclamation should not be bad news for the poor, but good news. If it is bad news for anyone, it ought to be for the complacently rich, including those in churches, who don’t show any concern for the physical or spiritual state of poorer people around the world. Well, this whole Rapture scenario do some good, even if no Rapture happens, if it shakes some Christians out of their complacency into understanding that the end will come, at least for each individual at death, and that God will have something to say about how they have spent their lives which is nothing to do with how much wealth they have stored up.

Meanwhile Matthew Malcolm is liveblogging from Perth, Australia, where the Rapture is due in a few minutes …

Rapture update 1: New Zealand untouched

Christchurch cathedral after the earthquakeGood morning from England. In New Zealand it is already after 8 pm on Saturday 21st May. But there are no signs yet of the Rapture having started there at 6 pm, as predicted by Harold Camping. No reports of earthquakes or backwards-twisting tornadoes. For a suitable image I had to find one of the February earthquake in Christchurch.

Why should this be? Is there no one in the whole of New Zealand worthy of being raptured? Well, if even one of their distinguished theological professors, Tim Bulkeley, could pour scorn on the predictions of judgment day today, then that just could be the explanation.

Or perhaps the damage Down Under was so massive that no reports have reached the rest of the world? I note that Tim has not yet posted today, so perhaps, despite his scepticism, he has been taken up to heaven with his fellow Kiwis.

Or could it be that Harold Camping is wrong? If so, it is only the church that will be damaged by today’s non-events.

Entering the Kingdom like Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette (2006)Enough of the banter about the Rapture, now for something more serious. Yes, really. This post started out as a section of my post The Rapture: will we be clothed or naked? But there is a serious point here which I didn’t want to be lost in that not so serious post.

There is a scene in the 2006 film Marie Antoinette where the young Austrian princess leaves her home territory to enter France. The year is 1770. Before entering her new kingdom, and meeting her bridegroom who will be king, she has to leave behind all her clothes and personal possessions, even her Austrian pet dog. A French lady in waiting tells her she can have as many French dogs as she likes. But nothing Austrian is allowed in France, at least for the bride of the Dauphin who must become completely French.

Similarly, when we as Christians enter the kingdom of heaven as the bride of Christ, we have to leave everything of this world behind us, to receive new things fit for the kingdom of God. This is not so much literally about clothes, although it might include them, as about spiritual encumbrances. We can send treasure on in advance (Matthew 6:20), but we cannot take it with us.

The problem with this rather simplistic picture is that, despite what Harold Camping and other advocates of the Rapture might think, Christians do not move in one simple step, or flight, from this world into a kingdom of God in the sky. Instead, when we become followers of Jesus we start to live in two kingdoms at the same time, the old worldly kingdom over which Satan still claims to be the the prince (John 16:11), and the new kingdom of God which has been breaking into this world ever since the resurrection of Jesus.

So we have time to put aside the worldly things gradually and pick up the things of heaven. There will be no embarrassing intermediate step of nakedness. This is what is traditionally known as “sanctification”, the process by which a Christian gradually lives a more and more holy life. While we can aim to complete this process in this life, unlike John Wesley I don’t believe we will become perfectly sanctified this side of the grave, that is if we reach it before the return of Jesus.

It is only when Jesus does return that we will become perfectly holy. We will then have to put aside every last remnant of our old life. The old kingdom of the world will be destroyed and only the kingdom of God will remain. And we will be clothed again in our holy heavenly garments, our white wedding dress, as the bride of the Lamb.

Elijah was raptured without his clothes

Elijah's mantle falls from heavenI am embarrassed that I missed the clearest evidence in my post The Rapture: will we be clothed or naked?, which is from the story of Elijah. In the Bible there are only three people who were taken up into heaven alive: Enoch, Elijah and Jesus. We don’t know anything about Enoch’s clothes. Jesus had already left his earthly grave-clothes lying in the tomb when he was resurrected, and presumably what preserved his modesty during his resurrection appearances was some kind of heavenly raiment which could ascend to heaven with him.

So we are left with the story of Elijah being taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, in 2 Kings 2. This is the clearest and most detailed biblical account of any kind of rapture. And what do we read?

Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him …

2 Kings 2:13 (NIV 2011)

So it should be more than clear that our clothes will fall off us if and when we are raptured, for others to pick up.

Presumably, since the metaphorical sense of “mantle” derives from the KJV rendering of this story, the metaphorical mantles of those who are raptured will also be available for the first to claim them. In that case, as Joel Watts is expecting to be raptured on Saturday, as I already commented on his blog I want to claim “his mantle and a double portion of his anointing”, not least so that I can overcome the attacks of enemies of Gentle Wisdom and win that #1 biblioblogger place.

The Elijah passage also gives an insight into the mechanism of the Rapture. He was taken into heaven in a whirlwind, otherwise known as a tornado. Will the earth be hit by a massive outbreak of tornadoes? Were the ones which devastated the US Bible Belt a few weeks ago God’s practice run? It seems odd to me that Harold Camping is predicting earthquakes but has not mentioned tornadoes. And in the darkness and confusion inside a tornado there won’t be much danger of anyone’s nakedness being noticed.

So be ready for tomorrow just in case, but don’t worry about clothes. To quote Jesus (out of context? who said that?),

So do not worry, saying, … ‘What shall we wear?’ … 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. …

Matthew 6:31,34 (NIV 2011)

The Rapture: will we be clothed or naked?

On Saturday the Rapture, and its associated earthquakes, may or may not sweep around the earth. Well, probably not. But already Rapture fever is sweeping around the world, and claiming among its victims bloggers in New Zealand (Tim Bulkeley), Canada (Martin Trench) and England (Archdruid Eileen, and, I suppose, myself) as well in Harold Camping’s native USA. Here in England even the secular press is falling victim, as seen in today’s edition of Metro. And in the USA the infection seems to be spreading into the academic sector (thanks to James McGrath for that link).

If you see me naked on the streets, it may or may not be because of the raptureMeanwhile, in a post which seems to suggests that Roman Catholics will miss out on the Rapture, Joel raises an interesting issue, in passing in an image caption:

If you see me naked on the streets, it may or may not be because of the rapture

The image (reproduced here) suggests that Joel expects to be raptured naked, leaving behind all his clothes and even his socks, not to mention his phone and coffee mug. But the text written over the image, Revelation 16:15, seems to suggest the opposite, that it will matter how we are dressed when the Rapture comes.

So, which is it? Will we be taken up to heaven naked or fully clothed? Should we all put on our Sunday best this Saturday to make sure we give the right impression when we land at the Pearly Gates? After all, just in case we have committed a few sins that the death of Jesus Christ was unable to atone for, maybe if we look the part we can persuade St Peter to overlook them. I jest, of course.

There do seem to be Bible passages which suggest that we will be naked when we arrive in heaven, just as Adam and Eve were in Eden:

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

1 Timothy 6:7 (NIV 2011)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud …, let us throw off everything that hinders …

Hebrews 12:1 (NIV 2011)

Other passages suggest that in heaven we will be given all the clothing we need, at least to keep us going for the few months until the final end of the world:

Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer …

Revelation 6:11 (NIV 2011)

So what do we make of the verse that Joel used?

Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.

Revelation 16:15 (NIV 2011)

It seems clear that we shouldn’t be wandering around naked as we wait for the Rapture. Anyway that wouldn’t be very sensible, at least here, in our cool May weather. But it probably doesn’t matter what we are wearing, as long as it is decent. It will all be left behind, perhaps in a mess as in Joel’s picture, or perhaps nicely tidied up by angels like Jesus’ graveclothes. Then before we can enter God’s kingdom and the marriage feast of the Lamb we will be clothed in our proper wedding garments (contrast Matthew 22:11-12).

Oh dear, this post has become far too serious! It is almost beginning to sound like I believe in the Rapture on Saturday!

Rapture this Saturday? I don't care!

Not 2012Harold Camping, as reported by Wikipedia, has predicted that

the Rapture … will take place on May 21, 2011 and that the end of the world as we know it will take place five months later on October 21, 2011.

Fuller details are given in a tract from Camping’s fellowship, and elsewhere. I note that this is not so much a prophecy, based on claimed divine revelation, as a prediction, based on Camping’s idiosyncratic study of the Bible. There seem to be quite a few of Camping’s followers who believe him. Not surprisingly, most other Christians, and probably all atheists, don’t.

One version of the prediction involves earthquakes, on a scale way beyond what David Wilkerson and others have prophesied:

An earthquake strong enough to shake the entire planet. … This will be a rolling earthquake that will begin with all the country around the international dateline and follow the sun around the earth on May 21, Each country in the successive date line experiencing the earthquake and the beginning of judgment around 6pm in each time zone.

Will the Rapture take place this Saturday? Possibly. Probably not. But I don’t care. If a few of Camping’s followers are no longer among us, the world will hardly notice the difference. But I might wonder if they have really been raptured, or if they have decided to disappear to avoid recriminations, or perhaps to re-enact the Jonestown suicide plot. As for the earthquakes, I have no reason to think Camping is any better at predicting them than Raffaele Bendandi.

I won’t worry if I am left behind. Indeed that is what I would prefer. I want to be around to continue to actualise the kingdom of God on earth, as Tony Campolo has today described the Christian calling. And if, as Camping predicts,

The inhabitants who survive this terrible earthquake will exist in a world of horror and chaos beyond description

then there will be all the more need for Christians to be around to minister to those who are suffering and looking for God in their distress.

Will the end of the world take place this October? Possibly. Probably not. But I want to be ready and doing God’s work whenever it does happen.

Royal wedding day rapture?

Prince William and Kate MiddletonIt’s not yet eleven o’clock in the morning, and already today six people have found my post The Marriage of the Millennium: not William and Kate with the search string

rapture of jesus’ bride is same day of marriage of prince william and kate middleton.

Does someone know something I don’t? Have we got just a few days to prepare ourselves for the Rapture? No, I don’t think so, although we should be ready just in case:

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Matthew 24:44 (NIV 2011)

I hope William and Kate will be rapturously happy on their wedding day. No doubt many others will be in raptures of excitement at the spectacle. But I will not be waiting around for any more literal rapture.

Left Behind Preachers

The RaptureIf there is a Rapture, who will preach to those left behind? Surely not many churches will be empty the following Sunday. Few congregations will have been 100% raptured, and others will very likely join them to find out what is happening.

Archdruid Eileen offers a preview of that situation in at least one church this Sunday, where the pastor is away at Spring Harvest:

Take the people at Drayton’s chapel. In  his absence, his deacon – Mr Obadiah Zebulun – is preaching. He doesn’t often get the chance, and he’s made the most of it.

The pastor of my old church in Essex is currently leading a mission trip to Israel, so the church’s Facebook page announced last night that

Next week is Holy Week and we’re kicking things off tomorrow with a sermon from our very own Easter Bunny

– followed by the name of the lady in question. I give no links here to spare her blushes.

Now I wouldn’t suggest that that godly lady would not qualify for the Rapture. I’m not so sure about the fictional (I presume) Deacon Obadiah Zebulun. But, if there were to be a Rapture, it would surely be most unfortunate if the left behind congregation members, who would be in serious need of spiritual guidance, were instead forced to suffer the lengthy rants and bad exegesis of second rate preachers who were not even born again.

I still wouldn’t want to be raptured – I would prefer to be left behind. Or, more to the point, I hope that when difficult times come none of God’s people are raptured, but all are left behind to minister to unbelievers at the time of their greatest need. We can rely on God to be with us through the worst of times, although that might not protect all of us from suffering and martyrdom. Surely there will be faithful witness to the truth about God right up to the end.