It must be something in the air at the moment – there seems to be a rash of crazies staking their claim to their fifteen minutes of fame, and all of it in the name of God.
Here in Australia, a fairly ordinary-looking bloke named A J Miller is claiming that his real name is Jesus Christ, and that he is, yes, the REAL Jesus, returned to earth. “Jesus Christ”, he said in a television interview, was the name given to him by his parents in the first century. He has even partnered up with a woman whom he claims to be the reincarnation of Mary Magdaline, and together they have established a “church” in northern Queensland, and are actively recruiting new members throughout Australia and around the world.
Now, anyone who knows the Bible knows that there are numerous flaws in this claim.
Firstly, the name “Jesus” is an Anglicized version of the Hebrew name, Yeshu’a. “Christ”, which is the English translation of the Hebrew term Messhiach (Messiah) is not a name at all, but a title. The real Jesus would have been known during His earthly life as Yeshu’a ben Yoseph – Jesus, son of Joseph. It was not until after His resurrection, when His followers began to fully understand Who He was, that the title Yeshu’a ha Messhiach (Jesus the Messiah, or Jesus Christ) was applied to Him. To suggest that His parents gave Him the name, “Jesus Christ” is as ridiculous as saying that my parents named me “Reverend Lynn!”
Of course, that is a minor detail. Far more important is the fact that the Bible teaches RESURRECTION, not REINCARNATION. The two concepts are diametrically opposed.
According to reincarnation, a person supposedly lives through many lifetimes, each in a new body, each time being born as a baby, living on earth and eventually dying.
In the Resurrection, Jesus rose back to life after His death – but not the same kind of life that He had lived on earth. His resurrection life included a glorified body which could never die again. His followers look forward to the same hope in the resurrection – for those who have died, their spirits and souls will be reunited with a glorified body that will never die; whilst those who are alive at the time of Jesus’ return will have their bodies transformed.
The Bible is very clear that Jesus WILL return to this earth one day: but it will not be to be born again as a baby and live a human life. No, when He comes it will be suddenly, in power and glory, as the King returning to take over the rulership of His Kingdom.
He clearly said that before that happens, many false Christs and false prophets would arise. Obviously, A J Miller is one of them.
Then there is Harold Camping and his followers who, in spite of the clear Biblical statement that no-one knows the day or hour of Christ’s return, have for months been spending a fortune on declaring that the Rapture would take place at 6pm on 21st May, 2011.
The first problem that arises from that is, where? When it was 6pm on 21st May in some parts of the USA, it was already 8am on 22nd May here in eastern Australia.
That aside, it is now just after 10am on 23rd May here, well past the deadline wherever in the world you may be … and guess what, I’m still here at my computer. What’s more, I’ve checked in on the couple of Christian forums that I frequent, and they’re all still here on earth, too. I’ve also checked the news sites, and there has not been, as far as I can tell, a single report of people vanishing from their homes, cars or workplaces.
Mr Camping, I guess you got it wrong … again! Previously, Harold Camping had predicted the Rapture in 1994. Rather than admit that was out-and-out wrong, his rather strange timeline was changed to include the following:
“1994 AD—On September 7th, the first 2300-day period of the great tribulation came to an end and the latter rain began, commencing God’s plan to save a great multitude of people outside of the churches (13,006 years from creation).” (From http://www.ebiblefellowship.com/outreach/tracts/may21/)
As I said earlier, in the Bible Jesus clearly says that no-one knows the day or hour. Since the first test of true prophecy is that it agree with the Word of God, that means that any prophecy claiming to know dates or times for the return of Jesus is by definition a false prophecy.
False prophecies like this cause the Church to be held up to ridicule, and do enormous damage to the cause of Christ. How many will lose their faith because they sold or gave away possessions and money believing that they would not need them after 21st May? How many will be left in debt, even bankrupt and homeless? How many more will never find faith because the devil will use false prophecies like this to convince them that the whole message of the Gospel is a load of garbage?
Finally, there is the charming congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church (in the USA), highlighted in a 60 Minutes report last night. These dear folk worship a god of hate, and spend all their time telling everyone they can find how much God hates them. According to them, God hates homosexuals; He hates American soldiers (and delights when they are killed); He hates Australians (and takes enormous pleasure in sending bushfires, cyclones and floods); He hates the media. He even hates Easter!
Now, let me be very clear: God does hate sin, and He will judge sin. But – and it is the biggest “but” in the whole history of mankind – He loves people, whom He created in His own image. He loves people so much that God the Son became man in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for man’s sin, so that we would not have to face God’s judgment but would be able to enjoy eternity in His presence. To appropriate the benefit of that sacrifice, all we have to do is turn away from sin and surrender our lives to Jesus Christ.
Hell is real, and those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ will go there – but it will not be because God hates them, but because He will not force Himself upon anyone. No-one will be compelled to spend eternity with God in heaven – but the offer is open for all those who choose to receive it.
The Bible tells us that God IS love: not just that He loves, or that He is loving, but that love is the very core of His nature. It seems to me that the God the Westboro folks serve is definitely not the God of the Bible.
What about the disasters? Does God cause them? The Bible does talk about the Lord using natural disasters to bring judgment on various people, particularly in the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation. What it does not do is suggest that He in any way enjoys doing so. Even when he brings or allows tragedy, it is done in love in the hope of turning people away from sin and to Himself.
For the most part, though, I believe the tragedies that befall man are simply a matter of God respecting man’s choices. People tell Him they don’t want Him, then they complain that He doesn’t extend His hand to protect them. We can’t have it both ways.
False Christs, doomsday prophets, hate cults … they are all a sign of the times. Jesus said it would happen this way, and the only thing surprising about the whole scenario is that so many Christians are surprised by it. Get used to it – there will probably be many more of them before the return of the Lord.