U2, Harold Camping, & The End of the World

On Saturday I arose early and, in the company of two good friends, drove to Denver, Colorado. There we met up with my dear sister, who had flown in on the back end of a trip to Virginia. We had a nice meal in the late afternoon, and then made our way to Invesco Field, where we would be there firsthand to witness the Second Coming - er, first performance of the band U2 on their make-up leg of their North American tour. Actually, I was amazed at the attention Mr. Harold Camping's (I refuse to call him a "pastor" or "reverend," because he is neither) prediction of the apocalypse was getting. I heard people mention it at the restaurant, and quite a few commenting at the concert itself. Mr. Camping continues his pattern of disgracing the name of Jesus Christ, and the world is only too eager to use his lunacy against Christ himself.

The world did not end. The Irish Quartet took to the stage. The concert theme was basically, "What time is it in the world?" The question was raised on the video screens prior to concert time. Was it time for the end of the world? Finally, Bono gave the answer, shouting amid The Edge's screaming guitar, Adam Clayton's throbbing bass, and Larry Mullen, Jr.'s rock-solid beat: "It's SHOWTIME." Incredibly, in the context of 70,000 people, me and my compadres were only ten feet from the catwalk. Nobody in front of me was taller. I could take in the entire scene, rarely, in fact, relying on the massive 360-degree video screen designed to aid more distant viewers. This was certainly the closest I've ever been at a concert.

"Showtime" was, in fact, quite the show. Two-plus hours of non-stop U2 classics. The band was ON. The sound was pitch-perfect. I could hear every word and every note. I could see clearly, especially when they walked the catwalk right in front of us. They delighted us with an unpredictable set list that included our favorites. I was somewhat surprised to feel my own tears hot on my face during the most exquisite rendition of "All I Want Is You" I've ever heard. My sister had the pleasure of hearing her favorite, an acoustic rendition of "Stay (Far Away, So Close)." Bono's voice sounded better than I've ever heard it. I have no idea how mine sounded, drowned out as it was by 69,999 other people. But I know I was extremely hoarse on Sunday.

Bono dedicated a song to Mr. Harold Camping. Yes, he really did. And boy, was it appropriate. "This one's for the Reverend Harold Camping," he said. "What a disappointment!" Although he was mocking Camping, he made clear he was NOT mocking the Second Coming. "To be caught up in the air... it sounds cool [....] It's not the end of the world, but God is in the house." Edge, Larry, and Adam kicked into the song "Until the End of the World." The song is a lament put into the mouth of Judas Iscariot, reflecting on his motives for betraying his Lord: "You... you were talking like it was the end of the world." The song takes a turn at the end. Keeping in mind that Jesus himself was pretty clear that repentance was not in Judas's future (John 17:12), the song's intent is to personalize the betrayal, to put yourself in Judas's place. Bono sings these powerful words:

"In my dream, I was drowning in sorrows / But my sorrows, they learned to swim.
Surrounding me, going down on me / spilling over the brim.
Waves of regret, waves of joy / I reached out for the one I tried to destroy.
You, you said you would wait until the end of the world."

Yes, in his compassion Jesus waits until the end of the world: "And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). That's a message we all need to hear, and one Harold Camping desperately needs to hear and heed. I can say with absolute confidence (Matt. 7:15ff) that he does not know Jesus. Or, better, Jesus does not know him. If Harold is not precisely whom Jesus was talking about when he said, "Watch out for false prophets," then nobody fits the category and Jesus' words are meaningless. The Judgment Day Harold longs for is not one that will be kind to him, for Jesus says ahead of time exactly what he will say to false prophets: "I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matt. 7:23) Maybe Harold will yet, with "waves of regret" and "waves of joy" reach out for the One he tried to destroy. Maybe he will experience true conversion yet.

Jesus will wait. But not forever. For there truly will be an End of the World. How ironic that a rock superstar has something to teach Harold Camping. The song U2 sang to close the concert was a song about exactly what Camping and his followers need: a "Moment of Surrender."

Brian Mattson