In church we're just coming to the end of a series of studies on Paul's Letter to the Philippians. Philippi, at the time Paul was writing, was a small city which had been refounded as a Roman military colony little more than 60 years before... As such its citizens prized their citizenship of Rome and one of the greatest honours they could receive was a visit from a Roman Emperor, who was known (among many other similarly humble titles) as the “Saviour of Mankind”. We have no records confirming that Philippi ever did receive such a visit, but while he was in prison in Rome awaiting trial before the Emperor, Paul wrote to his friends in Philippi, saying:

"our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the
Lord Jesus Christ..."

Philippians 3:20 (ANIV)

Last week, while the news focussed on the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Britain's erstwhile colony of Dublin, a substantial number of people in that other former British colony, also known as the United States of America, were awaiting the imminent arrival of the Saviour of Mankind. Much has been written elsewhere (notably here, here and, from a viewpoint not quite sympathetic to Christianity, here) about the predictive abilities of Harold Camping, 89 year old preacher and radio broadcaster from Oakland, California, who forecast that Jesus should have returned around 6pm on Saturday, with around 2% of people being teleported/raptured straight to heaven… warning that the rest who’ve been left behind have got just under 6 months before the End of the World on October 21st. He has now revised his predictions (he has a history of this) to say that actually everything is going to happen on October 21st.

Now a lot of people have had a lot of fun at Harold's expense... except it isn't costing him much... rather he has been fleecing those who believe his twaddle, and I've been talking to those working with people from Pentecostal backgrounds in the Philippines, Eastern Europe and Africa who say that they have been sending money to his ministry and were genuinely terrified at the thought of the world ending on Saturday... That is an obscenity and one that I genuinely hope Harold has to answer for when the real judgement day rolls around...

As to when that will be... Well, we know Jesus himself didn't know the time or place of his return… So, with due respect, why should God let Harold Camping or David Campton in on the big secret and yet keep it from his son?
Once again I remind you of the story that sociologist and preacher Tony Campolo tells about a time when he was asked about the timetable for Jesus' return:

“I don’t know," he claims to have said "I’m not on the planning committee; I’m on the welcoming committee.”
Boy I wish I could come up with lines like that... And I hope you will be on the welcoming committee… I doubt that it will be on the 21st October... but why not make it sooner as you welcome him first and and foremost into your heart and mind…

A radically revised version of my "Just a Moment" on Downtown this morning.

ps. When I was searching for a suitable photograph for today's blog I clicked on a website with the above, widely used photo, only to find that it was a link to one of those sites that tries to terrify you that your computer is infected with viruses, thus encouraging you to hand over hard-earned cash to purchase their protection... Maybe they see in Harold a kindred spirit... Harold Camping, the patron saint of fear merchants and scam artists...


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