What If Jesus Doesn’t Return?

by Michael J. Klassen

Well, tomorrow’s the big day. The uber-famous rock band U2 plays in my home city of Denver, Colorado, and for the big ending, Jesus is coming back.

How great is that?!? A combination of heaven on earth followed up by an earth to heaven.

Of course, two things could turn the evening into a downer. First, the outdoor concert could be cancelled. Or more so, Jesus doesn’t return.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave the last few months, you know about Harold Camping’s prediction that Jesus is returning on May 21. For a little refresher, you can read my recent post about the coming event. Camping is the former civil engineer and current owner of Family Radio. According to his calculations, Judgment Day is tomorrow.

If Jesus chooses not to follow Camping’s prediction, I’ll be disappointed for a number of reasons:

Jesus isn’t coming back. Living in this world is okay, but heaven is going to be so much better. No more pain and sorrow. No more $100 fill-ups at the gas station. I can eat as much as I want. But seriously, we’ll be in God’s glorious, unhindered presence. People who fear that they’ll be bored in heaven don’t have a clue how much better it will be. I admit that all too often, I focus all my attention on this present life: paying the bills, working hard, raising my kids. And, I allow temporal, unimportant things to stress me out. Eternity, on the other hand, is…forever.

Lives will be shattered. I can’t help but think about the many people who invested their life savings to warn people about Jesus’ return. If Jesus doesn’t come back, how will they rebuild their lives? The embarrassment alone would be overwhelming. Some quit their jobs and lived on their life savings to warn others. When they apply for new jobs, and their prospective employer asks them why they left their previous job, what will they say? Without a doubt, some people will become embittered by the experience.

The Christian faith will be mocked. Antagonists of the Christian faith will be given one more reason to point their fingers at followers of Christ and laugh. Over the last few weeks, atheists have been making fun of Camping’s ardent followers and using it as evidence of the ridiculousness of our faith. Here’s one example.

Excuse me for moment while I rant: The part that sticks in my craw is Camping’s claim that “the Bible guarantees” the date of Jesus’ return. Really? Where? And why, after 2000 years, did he crack the code, while St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Pope Benedict (an extremely astute theologian) and other theological luminaries missed it? Amazing.

Nevertheless, if Jesus doesn’t come back, it isn’t the end of the world. Life will go on. In fact, our faith will continue. Fortunately, the future of our faith isn’t dependent upon the its followers. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Sadly enough, this isn’t the first time he’s had to deal with apocalyptic naysayers. People have been predicting the end of the world since the beginning.

The one encouragement I take in this non-event is that people still believe. Deep inside, we know this earth isn’t our home. Big screen TVs and iPads still don’t fill the God-shaped void inside.

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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24 Comments

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24 responses to “What If Jesus Doesn’t Return?

  1. elna

    Yes….but according to whom? It’s already tomorrow in Australia and still yesterday in America ?!

  2. You’re speaking to me from the future?? How cool is that?!? So did Jesus come back? Is it going to rain tonight? So many questions, so little time.

  3. Georgie-ann

    It just goes to show that even though we may be very sincere, we can also very easily be “sincerely wrong,” and without fully realizing it, of course. SOME-body in this discussion will end up being “wrong,” (and very soon), since we have disagreeing/opposing viewpoints at stake here. What will be “interesting” is to see how the “wrong ones” will try to back-peddle out of it — the rationalizations, justifications, and so on, blah blah blah, ad infinitum,…

    I say, “Oh well,…what else is new??” Mere mortals have been filling the sound waves and illustrious halls of conversational debacle with opinions, ideas and “proofs,” heaped upon opposing opinions, ideas and “proofs,” from time immemorial. It really just shows who we are and what we’re made of. We’re fundamentally “wannabes” — contingent beings in denial of our structural incompleteness — looking to “patch things up” with all sorts of proud posturings, illusions, delusions and “beliefs” — not much different from any old parading rooster in a barnyard, and just as compulsively noisy.

    Ho hum,…it teaches us to take most of the things we hear “spouted off” with such assuredness, with that protective “grain of salt.” I, for one, am glad to have the Bible for “reference material” and sanity back-up.

    God bless them, one and all,…at least they’re thinking and talking about Him. Their sincerity — though most likely mis-guided, warned about scripturally — may cause a “stir” that gets someone, with otherwise blase life attitudes, to sit up and take notice. It’s been said that being “scared into the Kingdom” beats not getting there at all. I think I would have to agree about that.

    Luke 21:8,9

    8 He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. 9 When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

  4. Fortunately,Georgie-ann, God can salvage even the worst-looking situations. Just look at the cross.

  5. Georgie-ann

    “It won’t be long,…til we’ll be le-e-eaving here,…

    It won’t be long,…til we’ll be go-o-ing home,…

    So, count the years as months,…and count the months as weeks,…

    And count the weeks as days,…any day now,…

    We’ll be go-o-ing ho-o-ome!”

    (-:

    It’s all good,…plenty of things will be “coming out” in the wash,…& we can count on that,…thank God,…

  6. I loved that song when I was a kid.

  7. Georgie-ann

    I never ever completely got over being a kid the first time around, and now I’m already getting ready to enter into my “second childhood!”,…so you can just imagine what kind of a “mess” I am!,…but happy enough,…no complaints,…”God is Good!”

  8. Great entry Mike & I love Elna’s comment, so true, tomorrow is already here.

  9. Amazing that this mere mortal human species thinks that he can predict the return of our Lord. When Christ Himself doesn’t know nor the angels in heaven- but most importantly if Christ who is sitting at the right hand of God, doesn’t know the appointed time His Fathers is having Him return- it blows my mind that this person or any other believes they know more than Christ Himself.

  10. Georgie-ann

    p.s. If you would be thinking that I have said that people are somehow reprehensible, guilty or bad and ugly for being “contingent beings,” that really would NOT have been my intention at all! As far as I’m concerned, this is simply our very honest condition before God. We simply ARE incomplete and very much “in need” of divine assistance to be able to handle ourselves in and throughout this life.

    The problem is that because — existentially speaking, and especially without a developed assurance and confidence in God — this makes so many people feel uncomfortable and insecure, moment by moment, that they “cover up” their basic (insecure) truth with “a whole lot of noise and commotion goin’ on” — always somethin’ happenin’, action, commentaries, thoughts, mingling, opinions, conflicts, forms, expectations. The dull continuous noise blocks out the sound of emptiness, is more comfortable than the feeling of vulnerability, especially since, in nice cases, there is often a kind of generous, warmhearted motive involved.

    As for myself, I totally LOVE the sound of a barnyard! The clucking, baa-ing, moo-ing, chirping and crowing is so warm, friendly and consoling! Comical, too! I absolutely think that we’re meant to be doing these things — chatting, surmising, creating projects and goals, chaffing with each other a bit, all in good humor if all goes well!

    And as humans, we also create and communicate verbal ideas along with all the other comforting impulses. However, many of these ideas are just that: possibilities, personal opinions, human conjecture, even fun and amusing, but not to be taken as absolute truths. For every opinion that I happen to have, I’m sure there’s a universe full of other ones with just as much “right” to exist!

    When I’ve been coordinating the music for church, with several instrumentalists and singers, there used to be some among us who felt compelled to argue with the others for ONE particular way to do the song. So, I developed the saying, “Well, please let me suggest to you this much: There may be a million ways to do a song ‘wrong,’ I’ll grant you that, but there are at least hundreds — and maybe even more — ways to do it ‘right.’ We need to listen and be flexible with each other, as we find our own voice as a group.” … And I’m happy to say that I don’t even have to say it very often anymore! (yay!)

    A further complication of our normal and natural “human situation” is that what strength we DO have is weakened/compromised by the effects of “the fall,” and as a result, we not only have the “instinct” to hide ourselves, (“cover” ourselves, and the sense of guilt and vulnerability that we somehow may experience as a deeply hidden/buried shame), but we also develop a life-style that includes a routine practice of “denial” in many situations. Denial leads to fabrication of alternative realities, pretend roles and masks that we put on and present to the world to look better and more important, or “more together,” than we really feel way down deep inside.

    Even these common cover-up impulses, under the circumstances, are fairly “understandable.” We can sympathize with the tendencies, and really “know” that most of us are acting out some version or other of an illusion that we present to life, (as in “fake it til you make it,” etc.). But we also may too easily begin to diverge too far from an acceptable and truthful position in God about ourselves. Cloaking reality in what boils down to “lies” basically, will not change the actual reality.

    When our innocence is as the innocence of children in these things, we find acceptance and understanding and compassion for one another. We can “read between the lines,” see deeper than what is exposed, do not expect perfection, cheer one another on. And all this is good, I would say.

    However, factoring in the influence of satan’s intrigue upon and within us, the human race falls into patterns that are not always as innocent:

    1 John 2:16 “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the PRIDE OF LIFE—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

    I have been alluding to a connection that we make with PRIDE — of life, of mind, of “my ideas,” “my” calculations — that DOES have a potential for danger and serious misleading. If we become identified with and set in these opinions — as in “MY SPECIAL INSIGHT about the end of the world” — and invested in them to the point of putting them and ourselves “on a pedestal,” (while ignoring and/or distorting the Word of God), then we’ve lost our innocence and taken on a different level of compulsion. This may become characterized by coercion and self-centered and self-promoted insistence, maybe even delusions (of grandeur), including pride and resentment against those who differ with us. Very often, in religious circles, this can be done “in the name of God.”

    Well,…I always say, “Buyer beware.” We don’t have to buy into every issue, solve everyone else’s problems, get on all the bandwagons. We can watch, pray, and speak “a word in season.”

    And we can always learn from what we observe, and realize that God may be speaking through many things, even errors, and in many ways to many different people. Some types of things may become predictable. We may develop a sense of humor, even affectionate tolerance. We may also develop greater understanding and wisdom about God and ourselves, even learning from things that might “be a bit off, “…(or even “waaay off”).

    Christ DID certainly go to the Cross on behalf of all of us, and the messes we are in. Plenty of things we do “don’t look right,” but He did it for love of us all.

    It is God who truly sees and “knows” us. He has seen fit to give us a lot of personal freedom and leeway. We’re even allowed to make mistakes. We can also do the same for others, being honest and loving them at the same time.

  11. elna

    If one is sure about your ‘insight’ wouldn’t time be better spend making peace with God, and going round making peace with everyone. Surely that will have a greater impact that billboards…Well, we should actually be doing that anyway :)) !!

  12. Georgie-ann

    Well,…it’s always good to be “saying our prayers,” committing ourselves in faith and trust to a loving God,…praying for ourselves and others,…and for God’s purposes/”God’s will” to be done,…come what may,…

    Treasured moments of “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10),…especially when we have no idea what else to do,…

    As Michael says about the “God-shaped vacuum” within us,…this is so very true,…

    … and, every once in awhile, we — as the totally absorbed, consumed and mechanized human race that we have become, running around in our endless driven manic circles, like frustrated hamsters stuck in a cage, building “our kingdoms” here on earth, —

    … every once in awhile, — the pressure relentlessly building up like steam inside a pressure cooker —

    … every once in awhile, — some of us seem to feel compelled to give voice to that “ancient” cry: “Stop the World!,…I Want to Get Off!”

    Galatians 6:9 “And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.”

    (… are we there yet? …)

  13. Georgie-ann

    … now into the early afternoon of the “designated day,”…& as I’m munching a tasty breakfast wrap, with lots of sauteed onions in it, for lunch, something occurs to me,…& it’s biblical,…uh-oh!,…Jonah!

    God sent a resistant Jonah via whale-mail to prophesy “the end” of Ninevah to the debauched residents, only to “change His mind” after these “lost souls” actually went and repented,….& Jonah was quite “tweeked” about it, as the story is told,…it made HIM look ridiculous in front of them all,…never mind that God actually obtained a fresh harvest of souls in the episode,…hmmmm,…

    Ah so,…(said the blind man),… and could this not happen in some similar form yet today?,…hmmmm,…

    (selah),…let us pause and think about this calmly for a moment,…

    Harold Camping in the sincere role of a latter day Jonah?,…and, why not?,…just check out all the media attention and feeding-frenzy going on world-wide at the moment,…and scoffers and unbelievers ARE looking and having to consider possibilities that are not usually blaring out front-and-center,…

    Never underestimate the powerful moxie on the suggestible human psyche, that is attached to such words and concepts as “God” and “the end of the world” and “right now, today!” and “this could be YOU left in the hot-seat!”,…especially in the minds of the biblically uninitiated,…in such a case, how are they going to “know for sure?”

    And NEVER underestimate what God might ask/require of His servants, the prophets!,…Many are the interesting stories “of old” (Old Testament),… and the New Testament dudes didn’t exactly have a cake-walk either,…

    hmmmm,…dare I say,…possibly, very clever?

    It has been said, by some, that Jesus would have come for just one soul,…if just one soul has been diverted from a path of eternal lostness by having their wayward attention “arrested” in this manner, — (& just look at all the help from the usually silent-on-the-subject Media!) — who’s to say that God’s hand is not necessarily in this in some way?,…even redeeming apparently mistaken human folly?,….

    God is not someone to waste an opportunity!

    Perhaps this has been a longstanding desire of Harold Camping’s hidden heart,…I actually have a friend or two who would almost fall into that same category,…I’m feeling a little smile coming to my face,…a little moistness around the corners of my eyes,…sympathy for the frustration of those who, in their own way, love God so much, that their life in this world is not only a kind of lonely and dreary experience, but also very painful,…I’ve “been there,” too,…

    Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.”

    Along the lines of Jonah, it is said that Ste. Theresa of Avila once “complained” to God something like: “If this is how you treat your friends, it’s no wonder you don’t have very many!”

    God continues to work in His mysterious ways. I remain ever in awe of both how vast AND how closely intimate and personal He is to us.

    God IS Love.

  14. elna

    I am still here….

  15. Georgie-ann

    me too!

  16. Georgie-ann

    I guess someone is “RE-CALCULATING,”….& I hope they’re all ok,…perhaps it should be a “red flag” to observers, if leaders do not appear to be accountable to something other than their own pet ideas, zeal, and long-standing, ingrown tunnel vision,…I wish them well in adjusting to their new reality,…

    • Georgie-ann

      Harold Camping has answered his door, a little “shook,” and says it was a tough week-end, and that he’ll be back to work on Monday,…(compliments of the Washington Post).

      The WP also explained his “biblical numerology.” A board member of his organization has expressed a hope that some people who invested so much in the outcome of this prediction, will be compensated by the ministry.

      “Numbers lie” — especially in the minds of those who strongly desire to produce/gain/”be blessed” by a special outcome/result. Many people lose at the Lottery every day, believing that they will win. These are fundamental risks and temptations and miss-evaluations, all too common to common man.

      With millions in funds, one does hope they will make a real and noble attempt “to do the right thing.”

  17. I hope Camping does the right thing too, but I doubt it. The “right thing” would be to own up to his mistakes and then stay quiet.

  18. Georgie-ann

    agreed,…

  19. Georgie-ann

    Well,…he’s moving the date,…”predictable,”…

    As usual, the Bible has it covered,…and in one very uncomplicated sentence:

    Luke 21:8 “He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.”

  20. Georgie-ann

    A very good (and timely) article on the cultic nature of self-promoting churches & leaders that use and abuse people, via their blindness, suggestive lies & unspiritual & dogmatic control:

    http://www.afa.net/Blogs/BlogPost.aspx?id=2147506524

  21. Georgie-ann,
    I’m acquainted with the book, in fact, I spent an afternoon with Ron Enroth, the author, two years ago. Quite a delightful man. My daughter attends Westmont College, where he teaches.

    • Georgie-ann

      It seems that when your eyes are opened to the dangerous potential that can underlie even God’s good words in the hands of those who are self-deceived, — truly operating in a negative cultic vortex, — life, God and religion, and “spiritual warfare” will never look the same.

      Even one’s “innocence and trust” that undoubtedly preceded and led into the situation, look different after a brush with the merciless manipulation, brainwashing and mind-controlling suggestive threads woven into the fabric of the psychological net that overlies all interactions and communications within.

      Best to be “far away” from these things. I’ve seen victims who have repented, escaped and recovered. But in all honesty, I’ve never seen a perpetrator who was able to loose himself (or herself) completely from the soul bondage and identity with satan in his driven sadistic purposes, needing to attach to and “feed on” the innocent faith and adulation of others.

      (You could have no idea how much I would have wished to have seen a deliverance in this particular area of bondage for some. I “believed for it” in several cases, but without the kind of results one would hope for.)

      Nothing ever looks the same after a brush with this stuff.

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