Are You Rapture Ready?

Save the date—Jesus is scheduled to make his second coming appearance on May 21, 2011.

That’s according to Harold Camping, founder of Family Radio, Inc. Billboards have been put up around Nashville, Tennessee and other cities like Detroit, Little Rock, Omaha, and Kansas City announcing the second coming. The cheesy billboards remind me of signs teasing a television series or the opening of a Broadway show. Jesus is about to make his big entrance only his final number will feature the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Tom Evans, spokesman for Family Radio said their math for setting the return date came from a verse in Luke 17: “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of Man.”

According to Camping’s prediction, the Rapture will happen exactly 7,000 years from the date that God first warned people about the flood. He said the flood happened in 4990 B.C., on what would have been May 21 in the modern calendar. God gave Noah one week of warning.

Since one day equals 1,000 years for God, that means there was a 7,000-year interval between the flood and rapture.

“We hope that anyone would get a Bible out and try and prove that this is wrong,” he said.

I suspect the advent of May 22, 2011 will be all the proof anyone needs, and it involves far fewer calculations.

I had already seen this date predicted on a van parked in a shopping center parking lot near Columbia, South Carolina months ago, so I suppose I’m already behind in my preparations. I count myself among the scoffers of second coming date-setting since Jesus himself said we won’t know the date or the time of his return.

Evans is prepared with his answer to me and others who laugh off their efforts:

“Sadly, only eight people survived the flood in Noah’s time,” he said. “The number of people that are going to be saved is going to be very small.”

All this rapture talk reminds me of a morning I spent in the chair at my hair salon. My hairdresser had been reading Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series. She may be among the few convinced by Evans of the Rapture’s date. She was terrified after reading these books.

“Sherrie,” I said, “all that Rapture theology was invented in the 1800s. It’s not biblical.”

She fell silent and I watched in the mirror as she went wide-eyed.

Finally she spoke and said, “Are you telling me that you don’t believe Jesus is coming back?”

I sighed and said, “Sherrie, I believe Jesus comes back every day and every day we torture and kill him all over again.”

Sherrie didn’t say another word about God—and I walked out of the salon with a really bad haircut.

We’re too busy condemning others to hell while waiting on God to pick us up and Rapture us into heaven because we’re just sure we’re among the chosen. We’re too busy getting ours to worry about whose getting left behind in this lifetime.

It reminds me of the bumper sticker that reads, “Jesus is coming, look busy.” We’re so concerned to look busy—to look like we’re about God’s business in the world, that we forget what it means to truly be about God’s business in the world. Jesus isn’t some micro-managing boss who demands that we look busy or we’ll be in trouble. What God demands is that we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. What God demands is that we love our neighbor just as much as we love ourselves and that we love God with all our heart, mind and strength.

It’s sad that we’d need a deadline to remind us of that.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008)