Main Point: The Bible says that no person knows the date for the end of the world. Our job as believers is to remain faithful till the end, not try to predict it.
Discussion Starter: Harold Camping’s End-Time Prediction(s)
Harold Camping is an elderly preacher who was affiliated with Family Radio for much of his life. He gained notoriety early in 2011 for his prediction that the world would end on May 21, 2011. Basically, he believed that an earthquake on May 21st would trigger the end of the world, setting off a chain reaction of horrendous events that would ultimately destroy the planet and all mankind. He was wrong.
The Video Clip: End of the World Predictions Were Wrong
OK, it’s a “little” past May 21, 2011…and we’re all still here. You might be thinking to yourself, “What happened?” I can easily tell you what happened: the same thing that happened the OTHER TWO times Harold Camping predicted the end of the world…nothing! That’s right; this is only one of three times Camping has predicted the end of the world. He did it once in 1994; strike one. He did it in May of 2011; strike two. Then, he predicted the world’s end in October of 2011; strike three. We’re going to spend the next few minutes taking a look at what the Bible says about the end of the world so we can make sure we’re doing what it says to do…and avoid doing what Harold Camping did.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share our names and one thing we would definitely want to do before the world ended.
- ASK A FEW: Why do you think someone would want to predict the end of the world?
- ASK A FEW: Does it surprise you that Harold Camping was wrong about all three predictions?
- ASK A FEW: Do you think it’s a good idea or a bad idea to try and predict the end of the world? Why?
- ASK A FEW: What do you think God wants us to be focused on between now and the end of the world?
Read the following passage:
Mark 13:1-37 (NIV)
As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” 2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” 3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” 5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. 9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. 12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong– let the reader understand– then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16 Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. 17 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18 Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now– and never to be equaled again. 20 If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect– if that were possible. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time. 24 “But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ 26 “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. 28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 32 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. 35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back– whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!'”
NOTE: As you can tell, there is a LOT crammed in this passage. Much of it will raise questions about Jesus’ teachings. Our suggestion is to really stay focused on the topic at hand and that’s teaching that no one can predict the end of the world so Christians should focus on remaining faithful. Don’t get sidetracked by every small detail. Keep your focus on the big picture.
We’ve spent our time together talking about some heavy stuff, namely, the end of the world. You know, the “end of the world” talk gets a really bad rap these days because of people like Camping, Miller, Koresh, Noone, and so many others. Because they’ve been so vocal – and so wrong – it’s hard to have a legitimate conversation about the end of the world.
Let me be clear about the end of the world: I do not know when it is going to happen. But, that’s OK. My job as a believer in Jesus Christ isn’t to predict the hour…it’s to live my life with that hour in mind. As far as Jesus is concerned, our role is to watch for Him at His return. We are to live our lives faithfully and expectantly because He could return at any moment.
How does making incorrect predictions about the end of the world bring God glory? It can’t! On the other hand, how does living faithfully in light of the coming end of the world bring God glory? In many, many ways!
So, that’s our task. We have to live our lives as though each day were our last. We need to focus on the truth that we can’t know the date so we should be faithful in the meantime.
Let’s huddle up in groups of three to spend some time in prayer, asking God to help us remain faithful to Him until He returns for us.
Close in Prayer
Written by David R Smith
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.