Ray Comfort has put himself on the front lines defending the Christian faith by confronting the spirit of the age and those who promote it, especially atheists. One of the recurring arguments used by atheists against the reliability of the Bible is the claim that it falsely predicted the return of Jesus within a generation. A skeptic named Jonathan asked the following question on his blog: “Could anyone of you believers tell me when the end times will happen, besides soon? It seems to me that the end times have been preached by man ever since the time they created their fictional deities.” There is a history of skeptics turning to Bible prophecy and claiming Jesus was wrong about the timing of His coming and the signs associated with it. Bertrand Russell wrote the following in Why I Am Not a Christian, a lecture he delivered on March 6, 1927, to the National Secular Society:
I am concerned with Christ as he appears in the Gospel narrative as it stands, and there one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise. For one thing, He certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed that His coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of His earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching.1
There have been others.2 Two recent ones come to mind. Bart Ehrman, the author of numerous books critical of the New Testament, became skeptical of the authority of the NT because of eschatology. His best-selling book Misquoting Jesus describes how he struggled to reconcile what he believed to be errors in the Bible.3 His pilgrimage from Moody Bible Institute to Princeton changed him forever. His trek down the road to skepticism begins with what he describes as “one of the most popular books on campus” at the time, Hal “Lindsay’s [sic] apocalyptic blueprint for our future, The Late Great Planet Earth.” Ehrman writes that he “was particularly struck by the ‘when’” of Lindsey’s prophetic outline of Matthew 24, the very question that Jonathan the Skeptic asked you.
The other one was the response that Douglas Wilson gave to atheist Christopher Hitchens in the film Collision. Like Jonathan the Skeptic, Hitchens charged that Jesus was in error because He predicted His coming within a generation, and it did not come to pass. Wilson demonstrated that Jesus was referring to a judgment coming that in fact did take place before that generation passed away. It’s the only way to read the Olivet Discourse, and the skeptics are reading it the right way. Unfortunately, too many Christians are giving the wrong answer.
Ray Comfort’s response was similar to an article he had written that appeared on the website of Christian Worldview Network on May 14, 2008.
A Question from a Skeptic (June 26, 2009): “Could anyone of you believers tell me when the end times will happen, besides soon? It seems to me that the end times have been preached by man ever since the time they created their fictional deities.” (Jonathan)
Ray Comfort: “Here are some of the ‘signs’ of which the Bible speaks. Nation will rise against nation. Wars. Earthquakes in various places. Money-hungry preachers will deceive many and slur the name of Christianity. It predicts a forsaking of the institution of marriage, an increase in knowledge (think of the computer era) and an increase in travel (think of air flight, train, car, etc.). A belief in ‘fables’ (Santa Claus, etc.), and a general denial of the worldwide Noahic flood. There will be an increase in dietary concern, a forsaking of the Ten Commandments, and Israel (Jerusalem in particular) will become a huge unsolvable problem for the nations of the world. Life will become fearful for many, and men will have heart failure because of concern for the things that happen on the earth. The Scriptures speak of a cold hypocritical religious system with a mere ‘form of godliness.’
‘There will be skeptics of Christianity who will particularly mock the thought of the Second Coming. The Bible even perfectly predicts your philosophy and the reason why you mock the thought. It says you will say that these signs have always been around, and you will do this for two reasons: 1. because you don’t realize that God is not subject to the dimension of time (a day to Him is as a thousand years to us), and 2. because of your love of lust. However, the big ‘sign’ to look for is the Jews re-possession of the city of Jerusalem. That happened in 1967. For the first time in 2,000 years without a homeland, they obtained Jerusalem, and they now occupy that holy city. Despite all this, Jesus said that the gospel must be preached to the ends of the earth, and we are trying to do that in the hope that people like you will come to your senses. There’s a reason why we are so concerned for you. This is because the first time Jesus came, He came a harmless lamb to suffer for the sins of the world. The second time He will come in perfect Judgment, as the conquering King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The sky will part, there will be a great noise, lightning, and incredible power. The Bible warns that He will come in a holy wrath, to punish murderers, rapists, thieves, liars, fornicators, blasphemers, adulterers, and the disobedient. It will be so fearful, humanity will call for rocks to fall on them to hide them from His power. Here are some details of what will happen:
“… and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:7–10).
All these signs are deliberately hidden from the proud by what you are deceived into thinking is a fictional deity, in a Book you think is nothing but mythology. Your sin against God is way more serious than a heart attack. We are talking about where you will spend eternity: Heaven or Hell. If you are not sure what to do, today go to www.needGod.com
- Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957), 16.(↩)
- Gerald A. Larue, “The Bible and the Prophets of Doom,” Skeptical Inquirer (January/February 1999), 29; Michael Shermer, How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science (New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 2000), 1–7; Tim Callahan, Bible Prophecy: Failure or Fulfillment? (Altadena, CA: Millennium Press, 1997), 204–229.(↩)
- Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (New York: HarperCollins, 2005).(↩)