Harold Camping, the church, and the world

May 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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This past Saturday, after months and years of warning people about the Day of Judgment, Harold Camping was proven to be a false teacher. After months of laying out the specific mathematical calculations he used to determine that the rapture would happen on May 21st, 2011; after spending millions of dollars on billboards all across the country (and around the world) warning drivers of their impending doom and having his followers hand out t-shirts and buttons telling people of the rapture to happen, Mr. Camping’s supposed final moments came and went with little fanfare (well, from Mr. Camping anyway).

In light of the false prophecy and the horrible handling of people and truth, I wanted to take a look at what happened and how it affects both Christians and non-Christians. To help understand what happened, it is important to know some of the background of Harold Camping and his past. Mr. Camping is no stranger to giving a false prophecy. In 1994, Mr. Camping said that the rapture would take place on September 6th, 1994. Considering the fact that you’re reading this, it should be obvious that he was wrong. Mr. Camping didn’t start out this way though. At one point, Mr. Camping was a professing believer of the reformed persuasion. He taught on TULIP and other reformed doctrines. He sold his construction company and used the money to start up Family Radio Network. Over this new Christian broadcasting network, he would play Christian songs, bible readings, sermons from sound Bible teachers and even had his own program (Open Forum) where he would discuss different theological topics based on his reformed theology.

Discipline brings a change of heart…but not the good kind

This all changed on May 21st, 1988 (hmmm….) when Camping was asked to leave his church in Alameda. He had become engrossed with eschatology (end times study) and had begun to teach his own views on what the Bible said about the coming judgment and what was going to happen. When Camping ignored his church’s directive to stop teaching his unbiblical ideas in his classes, the church practiced discipline and asked him to leave. Not only did Camping leave, but many of the other members left as well (they all worked at Family Radio Network). Because he had an outlet for his teachings outside of the church, he continued building on what had started in the church. With his split from the church and no one to hold him accountable, Camping began to proclaim the end of the world on Sept. 6th, 1994. To this he added other ideas, like the idea that the Holy Spirit had left the organized church and that no one could be saved if they went to one. He also has said that those who preach and teach the gospel in churches after 1988 are servants of Satan, and that the organized churches are ruled by him. Still not satisfied, Camping has proclaimed other heresies like annihilationism, modalism, and the idea that Jesus died twice; as well as denying the total depravity of man.

For a long time he has pushed these ideas and, sadly, many people have fallen to the deceptions. When Sept. 6th 1994 came and went, Camping changed his tune a little bit. He said that he had been correct about the spiritual significance of the date but had misinterpreted the meaning of it. Fortunately for all of us, God seems to have corrected His mistake (because He can’t faithfully communicate to us, you know) and revealed to Camping that it was really the beginning of the end times pouring out of the Holy Spirit where numerous people would be saved (but not in the church!). As this pouring out began, Camping also said that there would be 8,400 days (23 years) until the Tribulation ends and the rapture occurs. This is the May 21st date that has just recently passed. He said that those who remained behind would be on the earth for another 5 months (153 days) and then the world would end.

Fast forward to the past week. Camping and his followers were “sure” of the day and what would happen come six o’clock. They spent millions on billboards, pamphlets, and other materials to let people know that they didn’t have much time left. If this were all though, it would be bad enough. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Those who trusted in Camping and his false prophecies also did other things. They sold everything they had, they euthanized their pets (where’s PETA at now?), and poured their lives into the false message. There were fights with spouses, children told that they were going to be left behind, and one woman who tried to kill her two children. I’m sure Satan was gloating over all of it. The confusion (see 1 Corinthians 14:33) caused by this will have lasting effects on thousands of people and Harold Camping doesn’t seem to care a whit for any of them.

He recently came out with a press conference about what had happened and how it should be seen. Camping made it clear that his misinterpretation of the past week’s events was due to him looking at things to “factually” and not “spiritually” like he should have. In his short talk, Camping also said that while the rapture and earthquakes he predicted didn’t happen, that it was still a “spiritually significant event” (do you see a pattern here?). He has now said that what happened invisible, “spiritual” visitation of divine judgment on the earth and that the world would still end on Oct. 21st of this year. On top of all of this, when asked about who will be saved, he clearly stated that being a Christian has nothing to do with salvation; that Hindus and those of other religions will have just as much chance to be raptured “if God has saved them”.

Camping walks a well-worn path

This entire scenario is an instance of history repeating itself. William Miller, a preacher in Vermont, predicted that the world would end between March 21st, 1843 and March 21st, 1844. He based this idea on Daniel 8:14. Just like Harold Camping, Miller was sure of his prediction, having used mathematical calculations and numerology to determine the dates. And, just like Camping, Miller was wrong. Like Camping, Miller set a new date of October 22nd, 1844. And he was wrong again. The second false prophecy ended up with the title of “The Great Disappointment”. After being wrong again, Miller’s followers became disillusioned and many left the Millerite movement. Miller himself still believed that the Second Coming of Christ was near, and he died in 1849 believing this to be true.

Miller did leave a legacy though that is still seen today. One group of Miller’s followers was led by Ellen G. White, the “prophetess” and one of the founders of the Seventh Day Adventist movement. She and her followers believed that Miller hadn’t been wrong after all. Instead, Miller had predicted the day that Jesus actually entered the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary. It was here that Jesus began “investigating” each believer to see if they were worthy to be saved. Miller’s is also believed to have influenced the group known as Jehovah’s witnesses. The Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted the Second Coming of Christ in 1914 and when that didn’t happen, they reinterpreted it to mean a “spiritual enthronement” of Jesus.

Whether Harold Camping’s repeated false prophecies will have the same effect as Miller’s remains to be seen. It doesn’t seem that there is another person to step up and take his place when he dies.

The aftermath of false prophecy

So, in light of the numerous false prophecies Harold Camping has made and the effect that it’s had on his followers, the church, and the rest of the world; what can we take away from this?

The first thing that needs to be understood is that Harold Camping is NOT a Christian. He has spent much of his adult life openly attacking the foundations of Christianity. He has rejected and/or denied many of the foundational doctrines in favor of his own beliefs. He has consistently ignored the calls for humility and repentance made by sound biblical pastors and teachers. He has stubbornly refused to admit any responsibility in the destruction that his heresies and false prophecies have brought to those who trusted him. On top of that, he is completely uncaring in regards to the effect that his shenanigans have had on both the church and those who mock her.

The disillusioned people that followed Camping and trusted him are going to have a hard road ahead. They’re going to have to be shown the truth gently and in love how Camping was wrong and how they were deceived. They will have to hear the love of Christians and be led back to Christ and back to the church. It will be hard, but it is possible. Then there are those who believe they are saved but are not. Some will be confused and others will not even care. The most tragic effect is on those who don’t know God. Many who don’t know God will see Harold Camping as a mainstream Christian and then use his inept and heretical antics as an excuse to paint all preachers, pastors, evangelists, and Christians with the same brush. It will be a simple reason for them to stay away from the church and the only One that can save them…

Then, inside that last group, there are those who actively and aggressively mock and hate God. They already have no desire to have anything to do with Him, but they will (and already have!) take this opportunity to turn others away from the God that they hate. They will dance and sing and mock and laugh at Harold Camping and the God he supposedly represents to justify their rebellious lifestyles.

What does the Bible say about all of this?

In the end, all that matters is what the Bible says. The problem is that Camping has claimed that he has been faithfully saying only what the Bible says. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Camping has ignored many clear biblical admonitions about his actions. Let’s look at a few things then, from a sound biblical perspective.

First, is it possible for anyone (much less a Christian) to know the exact day when Jesus will return? No, it’s not.

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. (Matthew 24:36)

“It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;” (Acts 1:7)

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. (1 Thess. 5:1-2)

No one is to know when Jesus will return. There is no secret Bible code or formula to use to determine when the day is. Instead, we are to be looking every day for His return. This is why Paul says that there is no need for this to be written to the brethren; they are already looking for Him to return any moment. Knowing that Christ could return at any moment, instead of focusing on the end and what day or hour He is returning, Christians are to be focusing on the fact that HE IS COMING BACK! This is assured in many places in scripture. When He comes back, He will not be a gentle lamb:

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. (Rev. 1:12-17)

When the Lord Jesus returns to earth the second time, it will be to bring judgment on those who have rejected Him. The book of Isaiah says that the blood of His enemies will drench the mountains. This is guaranteed by the Bible, whether we know the exact day or not. The issue then becomes where do you and stand with the Lord?

If you are reading this and you’re one of those who mock God and hate Him, I ask you to consider your ways. The Bible says that it is appointed that man will die once and then he will be judged (Hebrews 9:27). Like every man, woman, and child, you have sinned against God (Romans 3:23). You have lied, stolen, lusted, hated, blasphemed, and had idols in your life. Any ONE of these would be reason enough for a holy, righteous God to send someone to hell for eternity. And I have utter confidence in saying that you’ve committed more than one of these more than once. If you stand before the Lord with your sins unpaid, the Bible says that He will find you guilty of breaking His law and He will cast you into hell for all eternity as payment for those sins. It doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not, it is still true and there is nothing you can do to change it. No amount of “good” things will allow you to buy your way into heaven. No amount of prayers will earn you heaven. You stand already condemned (John 3:17-18) because you don’t believe in Jesus. But, there is a way for you to have your sins paid for. You can be cleansed of the guilt and shame that comes with sin and know without a shadow of a doubt that you are going to heaven when you die.

For this to happen, the Bible says that you must repent of your sins. You must acknowledge them, recognize that you deserve to be sent to hell for them and that there is nothing that you can do to free yourself from them. Then, you must turn from them. Turn from all of those things that you know are wrong and cry out to God to save you. Put your full trust in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross to save you from the punishment for the sins you’ve committed. The Bible says that if you do these two things, repent and trust, you will be saved. You will be born again.

If you have never done this, please do it today. You and I aren’t promised tomorrow. You have time with the breath you breathe right now to repent and trust. Please don’t waste it….

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