You probably remember that back in 2001, a Christian radio host named Harold Camping predicted that the Day of Judgment and the Rapture would occur on May 21, 2011. To Camping, this meant that the righteous would be taken up to Heaven and the evil would be left on the earth to endure God’s wrath. When neither the Judgment nor the Rapture materialized on that day, Camping quickly pivoted and advised that May 21 had been a “spiritual” day of judgment, and that the real Rapture would occur on October 21, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. pacific coast time, without a doubt.
As it happened, Ellen and I were on vacation on October 21, 2011. That evening we were relaxing in our hotel room when Ellen’s phone started to ring. The time was 6:01 p.m. pacific coast time. It was our son, Jeff. We put him on speaker and he quickly and loudly exclaimed, “Oh, thank God you answered the phone! I just got home, the house is empty and I was starting to worry that I had been left behind! ”
We both howled with laughter.
The ironic thing about the story is that Camping got it all wrong. As silly as his date prediction was, his real error was his misinterpretation of the Second Coming of Christ. Pay careful attention to Jesus’ promise of his Second Coming in today’s gospel passage from Luke.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“As it was in the days of Noah,
so it will be in the days of the Son of Man;
they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage up to the day
that Noah entered the ark,
and the flood came and destroyed them all.
Similarly, as it was in the days of Lot:
they were eating, drinking, buying,
selling, planting, building;
on the day when Lot left Sodom,
fire and brimstone rained from the sky to destroy them all.
So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.
On that day, someone who is on the housetop
and whose belongings are in the house
must not go down to get them,
and likewise one in the field
must not return to what was left behind.
Remember the wife of Lot.
Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it,
but whoever loses it will save it.
I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed;
one will be taken, the other left.
And there will be two women grinding meal together;
one will be taken, the other left.”
They said to him in reply, “Where, Lord?”
He said to them, “Where the body is,
there also the vultures will gather.”
Who is taken from the earth in the stories of Noah and Lot? It is the wicked who are taken from the earth and destroyed. Noah remained on the earth as did Lot. It is the righteous who are left behind, not the wicked. Jesus is promising us that when he comes again the wicked will be destroyed, leaving only the just on the earth. Our reading tells us that one will be taken and the other will be left. In the original Greek, the passage says one will be seized and the other will be released.
We cannot know the hour of the Second Coming. What we do know is that when Christ comes again he will judge the living and the dead. Today is the time to repent of our sinfulness and be counted among the just.
My sisters and brothers, I hope and pray that at the Second Coming of the Lord you will be left behind!