Local Clergy Doubt Rapture Prediction

Several billboards across county advertise Camping's forecast

By Michael Gehlken
|  Saturday, May 21, 2011  |  Updated 5:06 PM PDT
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A billboard predicting "Judgment Day" on May 21, 2011, stands outside a Barrio Logan shopping plaza.

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San Diego pastors of differing Christian denominations are preaching the same message in response to a Christian radio host’s bold prediction.

As advertised on multiple billboards across the county, Harold Camping, Family Radio president, has forecasted the belief-based Rapture, or rise of God’s elected people into heaven, will occur Saturday with the end of the world following in October.

The concept has grown in popularity on social media with often tongue-in-cheek discussions ranging from "End of the World" parties to pet-sitting services offered by athiests.

On Friday afternoon, "If the world ends on Saturday" hashtag and "Harold Camping" were both trending worldwide on Twitter.

As for the prediction itself, local clergymen's doubts appear unanimous.

Of the several interviewed, all said any return of Jesus is as likely to occur Saturday as it is any other day, adding their churchgoers have offered few inquiries about Camping’s prediction.

They also said they know of no church or pastor in San Diego who believes Camping will be correct.

Rev. Dr. Jim Standiford, of First United Methodist Church of San Diego, wrote an article on his church website’s newsletter Wednesday, responding to the prediction and its corresponding billboards, which are scattered at several locations in San Diego.

In white letters over a black and red backdrop, the words “Judgment Day” read above the date “May 21, 2011” to the promise, “The Bible Guarantees It.”

Standiford said the Oakland-based Harding’s prediction “kind of makes the Christian faith look silly.”

“I think there’s much more substance to our faith than what he’s letting on,” Standiford said. “He’s been wrong before, and my guess is we’ll all be around Sunday morning to find out he’s been wrong again.

“My fear is people grab a hold of this, are disappointed, and then give up completely. His brand of the Christian faith just doesn’t represent anything I’d hold onto, that’s for sure.”

Tim Sneeden, senior pastor at Metro Baptist Church, paused to open his Bible and quote Mark 13:33: “Take ye heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is.”

“That’s the Lord’s message that we should always be ready,” Sneeden said. “Do not be swayed or discouraged by a man’s false prediction … I’m very sad he has the resources and ability to promote that prediction that way and cause confusion and bring panic in people’s lives.”

Rev. Dr. John Powell at the Point Loma Community Presbyterian Church said while he believes Harding misunderstands the apocalyptical literary genre and shouldn’t predict such an event, he respects his “motivation to bring people to Christ.”

“I think if some people get their act together, repent and get back in touch with God, that’s certainly not bad,” Powell said. “We’re hoping for that.”

At the non-denomination Rock Church in Point Loma, multi-site pastor David Cooper tells believers three things are known about Jesus’ return: it will happen; no one knows when; and, be ready.

“The life of Jesus is controversial in general,” Cooper said, “so anyone who attempts to predict his Second Coming, especially when scripture says no one can predict it, it’s bound to grab attention … I think anyone can market and purchase billboard exposure if they have the funding to do it.”

Let us know what you think. Comment below, send us your thoughts via Twitter @nbcsandiego or add your comment to our Facebook page.

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