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Rapture predictions, atheist billboard mislead Christians

A billboard declaring, ?Don’t believe in God? Join the club,? was put up on Tuesday, May 3 at Blackstone avenue by a local atheist group called the Central Valley Coalition of Reason, which is comprised of three local atheist groups. Vice President David Costa says he wants to create awareness about the amount of people in the Valley who do not believe God exists.

The billboard will stay up until the end of May. Costa revealed a second motivation for the sign’s presence in a recent Fresno Bee article, saying, ?We will overlap the Rapture, which is supposed to happen May 21. Hopefully we’ll get our money’s worth.”

Costa refers to Family Church’s president Harold Camping, who promulgates that Jesus’ return will certainly take place on May 21. He claims that this epiphany was revealed to him through the Bible and used abstract methods of mathematics to determine this date. In an interview with SF Weekly he says, ?If we substitute 1,000 years for each of the seven days, 2011 is exactly 7,000 years from the Flood” (speaking of Noah’s great flood that took place in the Old Testament).

As any rational person, I believe that the rapture will not occur on May 21, and, when it doesn’t, I hope this does not turn people away from God and the fact that he is real. Rather, it should confirm the Bible’s validity because Jesus clearly states in Acts 1:7 that ?’The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.’? The entire notion of having to change our current lifestyles to prepare for Jesus’ arrival is contradictory to what our faith stands for.

We are called to be the hands and feet of God at all times, not just when we think he’s coming back. Of course I am not always the best example of that mentality, but there is definitely something amiss when we have to clean up our acts to ?prepare? for judgment.

When pastors Fred Delano of Fresno First Baptist Church and Jim Franklin of Cornerstone Church noticed the atheist billboard near their churches, they were not upset or offended. I am very glad that they reacted in this calm manner, as people who are out to prove that Christians are hypocritical and confused do not need any more fodder than people like David Costa are providing them with.

Predictions about the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus have existed for hundreds of years; obviously none of them have been accurate thus far. In Matthew 25:13, Jesus says, ?Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.? This statement follows the parable about the ten virgins who run out of lamp oil while waiting for the bridegroom to return and is in reference to Jesus’s second coming.

Nevertheless, ?prophets? throughout history have continually attempted to determine the date of Jesus’ return, dating back to eighteenth century Britain when William Whitson, theologian and mathematician, predicted a great flood, similar to the one in Noah’s day, would occur on October 13, 1736. In 1843, William Miller, founder of the Millerite movement, declared Jesus’ return would take place on March 21st, causing a lot of Christians to accept his prophecy.

When this day came and went without incident, Miller promised the rapture would be on October 22 of 1844. This date is known as The Great Disappointment because many Christians sold their property and possessions and quit their jobs to prepare themselves for the ascension to heaven.

Keeping this in mind, it is important that people realize that the group supporting the May 21st rapture theory are only a small group of misled Christians. People should not buy into this idea and make radical changes to their lives in anticipation of “being judged.” If someone is looking for a relationship with God, they should not attain it out of fear.

I absolutely do not believe that humans can determine Jesus’ return based on mathematics, astrology, or through any other means. We are clearly told in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 that the return of Jesus will come upon us ?like a thief in the night.? Matthew 24:36 says, ?No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.? This statement holds true, as 100 percent of Rapture predictions have been proven wrong thus far and will most likely be wrong until the actual rapture occurs.

For more columns, read the May 11 article, Riddikulus with Elise and Sydney: The final chapter.

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