Republished with permission from Baptist Bulletin May/June 2011. All rights reserved.
As Americans approach 2012, many eyes are upon the presidential elections and the scores of difficult political and economic challenges. While political pundits exchange views and posture their positions, another group of New Age thinkers and scientific doomsayers claim that December 2012 marks the end of the world as it is currently known. They portray the end of the world either through cataclysmic destruction or, more often, through a kind of corporate spiritual enlightenment.
Sri Ram Kaa and Kira Raa describe this spiritual enlightenment as a major inner human transformation resulting in greater spiritual awareness, spiritual activism, and global peace (2012 Awaking: Choosing Spiritual Enlightenment over Armageddon). But their idea is only one in a sea of voices that offer competing ideas about the end of the world.
Harold Camping, founder and president of Family Stations, Inc., strongly disagrees with these 2012 New Age enthusiasts. Camping told the San Francisco Chronicle that the 2012 “date has not one stitch of biblical authority. It’s like a fairy tale.” The real date for the end of time, he says, is in 2011. Camping insists that May 21, 2011, is the unquestionable, Scripturally predicted day of the Rapture and end of time. Camping uses his radio network and website to promote a free publication, “God Gives Another Infallible Proof That Assures the Rapture Will Occur May 21, 2011.”
America’s political and religious history is dominated by apocalyptic currents. As early as the late 1500s Puritan scholars involved in the America-colony experiment began positing a kind of Jewish restorationism based upon a common historicist understanding of the book of Revelation. This historicist view, an interpretative framework, presents the entire book of Revelation as giving symbolic presentations of God’s plan that occurs throughout church history—rather than referring to future events. Some influential colonial ministers (e.g., John Cotton, John Davenport, and Increase Mather) advocated a type of Jewish Zionism. However, they also applied events portrayed in Revelation to their own colonies; hence part of America’s DNA has to do with apocalypticism.
This historicist view of Revelation is counter to the current popular preterist view (or contemporary-historical view) that asserts Revelation primarily describes first-century experience with no or little prophetic futurism.
The futurist view of Revelation (advocated in this article) asserts that while Revelation 1—3 describes historical events, 4—22 describes future, progressive prophetic events yet to occur, and that this prophetic section was designed to assist the historical churches described in Revelation 2 and 3.