H arold Egbert Camping (born in 1921) is a Christian radio broadcaster, as well as being president of Family Radio, a California-based religious broadcasting network that is claimed to span something like 120-150 outlets in the United States. There is also a 'Family Radio' website. It is believed that - in 2011 - Camping was only months away from his 90th birthday.
Harold Camping, who has made some dramatic predictions for the year 2011.
Camping's main trademark is in using mathematical calculations in order to predict dates for the "rapture" and for the end of the world. Like so many others before him, he applies this approach to the apocalyptic parts of the Bible. Most recently Camping has claimed that the Rapture will occur on May 21, 2011, with God completely destroying the Earth and the universe five months later on October 21, 2011.
However, it should be noted that Camping had previously predicted that the Rapture would occur in September, 1994. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that Camping is not a theologian, and holds no recognised degree, nor award, of Christian ministry whatsoever. Rather, he is an engineer, having received a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley in 1942. He and his family were long-term members of the Christian Reformed Church until the year 1988. He served there as an Elder and Bible teacher for many years. Until retirement, Harold Camping earned his living from his own construction business, which he began shortly after the end of World War II.
Not surprisingly, Camping has received much criticism from a number of Christian scholars for his predictions on when the supposed "Rapture" will take place. His critics argue that Jesus Christ Himself taught that no man knows the day nor the hour of the Lord's return.
What is the truth of this? Is it really possible that this elderly gentleman can 'tap into' the very plans of God?
First of all, we need to look at Matthew 24:
34. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
35. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
36. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Matthew 24:34-36).
Two points about the above:
- First of all, Jesus is saying that the approximate timing of the conclusion of "this generation" may indeed be known, for He Himself has stated "a generation" to be the timing of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the temple, and the church's need to flee. This is fairly specific and indeed, after uttering these words in about AD33, the temple was destroyed and God's working with physical and national Israel concluded in AD70 - a generation. So this period of time was revealed to the early church which did indeed flee to Pella in AD69.
- However, from verse 35, Jesus is considering the time of the 'heavens and earth passing away.' Regarding that day, nobody except God Himself knows the timing. This should be clear enough. So, without a doubt, these three verses talk about two different periods of time.
Matthew 25 is another good Scripture to look at concerning the timing of our Lord's return:
5. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7. “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.
8. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9. “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10. “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12. “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:5-13, NIV throughout).
Again, it seems clear from this that the timing of Christ's return is only known in Heaven. Harold Camping, like many others before him, has set a date (actually he has done it twice), for events, the timing of which is not revealed to any soul upon this earth at the present time. Since this man claims to be an eminent Bible scholar, it is simply inexcusable for him to make any such claims.
Specifically, Camping claims that there will be a "Rapture" on May 21, 2011, but since the concept of a so-called "rapture" is extra-biblical and based on a confused understanding of two or three Bible texts, I will not consider that here. He then claims that God will completely destroy the Earth and the universe five months later on October 21, 2011. This - for sure - is setting a date, and it shows an ignorance of Scripture, and - effectively - places Camping in rebellion against God Himself!
It is claimed that Camping has also taught that no one was saved during a period between 1988 through 1994, and that the Church Age itself ended in 1994. Like other erring groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Armstrongists (now divided into at least 25-40 groups), Mr. Camping accuses anyone who differs from his own rather strange views of not really believing in the Bible and of being 'idolatrous.' Accepting no other Christian-focused views apart from his own, Camping has therefore clearly bought-into the proud, 'me-only' approach of countless heretics and false teachers, and should be viewed in that category rather than as a mainstream evangelical Christian.
Harold Camping also teaches that, since God has done away with the church in 1994, it therefore follows that there should no longer be local congregations, elders, deacons, and that ordinances such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper should now be discontinued. He maintains that the Holy Spirit has left the church as an empty shell with no power to proclaim the gospel. Therefore he calls his followers to flee the churches and to form fellowships around his teachings alone. The teaching is that these beliefs alone now have divine authority. This places this elderly gentleman into the same category as all the founders of the cults and sects.
While many of us would agree that this early 21st century sees many problems within the churches, and that, indeed, many congregations have become "empty shells," this does not make Camping's explanation to be entirely correct. There should be no attempt to abandon the concept of 'church,' which is biblically-revealed to be God's way of adding true believers to the Body of Christ until the Second Coming. True, we should always strive for 'the faith once delivered to the saints' in days of heresy, but, for sure, Harold Camping's weird and strange views cannot be understood as being any part of Protestant Christianity, and certainly not the 'only place where the truth is being preached' (as he claims).
Before we close, let us look at one or two Scriptures:
16. Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17. Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
18. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
19. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
20. Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. (Matthew 16:16-20).
Here is revealed God's system for bringing people to Christ during the present age. It is through The Church.
The Church is neither a building nor a religious denomination/institution, rather, it is a spiritual organism of those whom our Lord has set His hand to save. We preach the Gospel, and those who show an active interest in that message (not in some other message which might still have a "Jesus" figure), may be presumed to be among those whom God wishes to add to His Church. We start to see the process in action in Acts 2:
36. “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37. When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38. Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
41. Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:36-42).
Notice the four things which will be found among true believers:
1. Devotion to the Apostle's Teaching (not some other teaching, even if the other teaching also makes mention of a "Jesus").
2. Fellowship with each other.
3. The Breaking of Bread (Communion).
Thereafter, an Elder needs to be ever at work in carefully instructing the group and ensuring that heretical teachings are kept out.
As the group grows, a deacon will need to assist with the physical needs of the group. That is it - that's the process!
While heresies soon entered the early church (that is: at, physical, congregational level), and believers were continually warned to avoid all heretical teachers, the church - as a spiritual body - would continue to move forward. In short, 'church' comprises those called people whose names are written in Heaven. Nothing within the New Testament gives anybody on earth authority to wind down, or shut down the church. The Church Age only concludes when it is God's appointed time, a time He is obviously not going to reveal. Jesus told Peter that the power of the grave (hades) would not prevail against the church; in other words, there would continually be Christians upon this earth until the return of Christ.
But there are warnings, actually numerous warnings, to those who would seek to pervert the work of the church. Undoubtedly Peter was the first overall apostolic leader of the Church (he was no 'pope,' so Protestants should not be hesitant in admitting this early leadership of Peter, however, there are very strong indications that this charge was later transferred to Paul). But let us consider some words of Peter:
10. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble,
11. and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
12. So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.
13. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body,
14. because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.
15. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
Peter was concerned that the correct teachings should continue within the Church. But now carefully notice the correct attitude to prophecy:
16. For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
18. We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
19. We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
20. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.
21. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:10-21).
Prophecy was not some sort of ticket for the personal glory of whoever could come up with the most fantastic interpretation, or use the most clever mathematic formulations, rather, like all Scripture it was 'God-breathed' - and not open to personal interpretation.
It goes well beyond the Scripture for any preacher or "prophet" to arrogantly declare that the age of the Church has concluded, then set a date for the end of the world. That is to foolishly attempt to usurp God's very authority!
Robin A. Brace. May 17th, 2011.
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