I have just received the following e-mail which reads: “Dear friend, We are writing this letter to inform you of the great urgency that now exists for each and every person to be reconciled with God before May 21, 2011.
“As God’s servants, Family Radio (www.familyradio.com) feels a great responsibility to warn every person concerning the teachings of the Holy Bible that May 21, 2011 (just days away) will be the day when God comes for His people, and also the appointed Day of Judgment for all of the unsaved people of the world.”
It came from Family Radio, a nonprofit, noncommercial, listener supported, Bible Radio Ministry that broadcasts in 60 languages (including Arabic) throughout the world. It was founded in 1959 by Richard Palmquist, Lloyd Lindquist, and Harold Camping and it is 89-year-old Camping, president of the network and a former civil engineer, that is pushing his latest end-of-the-world claim which have even been appearing on billboards across the country.
At the recent National Religious Broadcasters 2011 annual convention, I even saw a delegate wearing a bomber jacket warning of the date.
So what is the truth behind this prediction?
I asked Jeremy Reynalds, our ANS Senior Correspondent, to comment and he said he had some strong views to share.
“I find Mr. Camping’s comments extremely unfortunate. The Bible says (Matt. 24: 36) that NO man knows the date or the hour when Jesus returns and that includes Harold Camping,” said Reynalds.
“Because comments like this are sensational, they tend to attract at least some attention from mainstream media, some members of whom I suspect will take this ‘prediction’ and try to make it typical of all Christian thought, and as a result mock the real gospel of Jesus Christ. Mr. Camping has already made at least one incorrect prediction. This one will turn out to be more wild speculation and encourage Bible mockers to continue in their ongoing quest. I know the Lord has a sense of humor, and even if He had decided to return on this day, I’ve always wondered if He would change it to show the error of ‘prophecies’ like this.
“This latest prediction also reminds me of Edgar Whisenant’s failed 1988 prediction and book, ‘88 Reasons Why Jesus will Return in 1988.’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_C._Whisenant).
“Of course, predictions like this don’t detract from Jesus’ sure return-though at a time of His choosing and knowledge. Many years ago, I heard a story of a preacher who was preaching about Jesus’ soon return. Someone came up to the minister after the message and asked him, ‘Sir, if my memory serves me correctly, I was in this same church 40 years ago and heard you saying the same thing. Where is He?’ The preacher looked at his detractor and said, ‘Sir, my message back then hasn’t been disproved. His coming is just 40 years closer.’ Maybe Mr. Camping should stick to a similar philosophy.
|A ‘warning’ on Camping’s website|
“I also wonder about all the time and energy spent, and book profits made, on this issue. We saw something similar with the 2000 millennium issue, which a number of so-called Bible teachers and preachers had a heyday with, and made an awful lot of money promoting the certain ‘disaster’ which didn’t occur.”
He went on to say, “With all this in mind, what should we do? How about just believing that as Jesus said, He could come at any moment. If we really believe that, we will be going about His business, not engaging in idle speculation about the date, but letting our lives be light in a dark world, sharing His love with an unsaved world, housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting those in jail etc.
“Anything less is, I believe, doing damage to the Name of Jesus and the Gospel with which he entrusted us.”
A recent headline from a story in the Chicago Tribune reads: “Reports that Jesus will return May 21 contradict Scripture”.
The writer Manya A. Brachear, a Tribune reporter began her story in this way: “For starters, California radio host Harold Camping, 89, president of the Christian Family Radio Network, hasn’t predicted the world will end this spring. He has predicted Jesus will return and believers will rise to heaven. The world won’t end until October, he says.
“But mainstream biblical scholars say his forecast contradicts Scripture. Jesus told his followers that no one knows the time of his return, they say.”
The writer then quoted Charlie Dyer, a professor-at-large of Bible at Moody Bible Institute and a Moody Radio host who devoted his Saturday show “The Land and the Book,” to the prophecy and plans to do the same this coming Saturday — the fateful day, according to Camping.
“He’s a sincere individual. I just think he’s sincerely wrong,” said Dyer, who went on to say that Camping has interpreted the Bible based on numerology, symbolic numbers and his own personal longing.
“He sincerely wants Jesus to return, and I do too,” Dyer said. “The problem is Harold Camping wants it so much he’s almost using the Bible like a Rorschach test and trying to read his desires into the Bible rather than letting the Bible teach us.”
Brachear then added, “This is not Camping’s first apocalyptic forecast. In 1992, he wrote a book titled ‘1994?’ in which he predicted the Rapture would take place on Sept. 6, 1994. When that date proved relatively uneventful, Camping blamed a miscalculation.
“Given that mistake, Dyer said he didn’t anticipate the hype surrounding this prognostication. This time, events such as the Japanese tsunami and the death of Osama bin Laden seem to have heightened the anxiety. The billboards, T-shirts and Camping’s own RV tour have helped promote the prediction too.
“For people left behind after May 21, Camping predicts Oct. 21 will be the final Judgment Day when God destroys the Earth.”
We’ll take care of your pets “left behind”
A strange phenomena that has arisen from Camping’s prediction is that a group of organizations have sprung up offering to take care of people’s pets “left behind” at the Rapture.
A story posted on the Houston Chronicle’s “Houston Belief” page (www.chron.com) says, “Not to fear. Various atheistic entrepreneurs have offered to fill the gap. For a fee, Fi-Fi will have a home after her owners have exited this planet.”
The story listed several sites, and at one, the writer said, “People can register pets at PayPal and volunteer pet caretakers will assume responsibility after the Rapture.”
At another site the writer stated that for $135 per pet, “a group of rescuers will step forward to retrieve pets left behind.”
“Flee From Harold Camping”
This was a warning given by James R. White, the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization based in Phoenix, Arizona, writing in the Christian Research Journal — http://www.equip.org.
In it he wrote: “The airwaves are a dangerous place for the Christian who is vulnerable to spiritual error. Heresy and false teaching abound all across the television and radio dials. Hidden within the plethora of obviously false teachings, however, is an equally dangerous, if less flamboyant, stream of teaching that is just as spiritually dangerous.
“Harold Camping attracts listeners by eschewing the surface-level, entertainment-based glitz of so many radio and television preachers and teachers. He rightly identifies many problems in the modern church and uses his willingness to speak out on these issues to gain spiritual capital and trust with his listeners. He knows the Bible, quotes the Bible, and professes allegiance to it. His consistency is attractive in a day when many are blown about by every wind of doctrine and flash-in-the-pan evangelists who come and go with frightening regularity.
“Calm consistency, however, can mask deadly error, and this is the case with Harold Camping. He refused to repent of his 1994 prediction, which was based on the erroneous allegorical interpretation and numerological speculation that marks his teaching. Although many decried his prediction, once it was past, it was “old news,” and few cared whether he continued on, undaunted, teaching his false methods of interpretation.
“It is not at all surprising, therefore, that eight years after his first debacle Camping is again leading multitudes astray, this time by teaching men and women to remove themselves from God’s ordained means of spiritual growth and protection and to join in unorganized, aimless, and purposeless ‘fellowships’ that lack divine guidance and approbation. His new error is considerably more serious and reprehensible than the first; sadly, it is not garnering nearly the kind of critical response from Christian leaders that his first error did, for many today lack a biblically based love for, and commitment to, the church Christ has established.
“We should learn from Camping’s errors. Camping has always functioned ‘outside’ the church. His teachings force us to clarify our own commitment to the church and our ministry in it. Camping’s attacks may well be used by God to move His people to reaffirm their love for His church.
“We must also learn from Camping’s error to see that our methods of interpretation are not dry subjects best left to theologians to hash out. Each of us is responsible to learn where we received the Bible and how we are to properly understand its message. Only then can we help those who have been misled by Harold Camping and all who, like him, replace the divine message of Scripture with their own thoughts and fancies.”
We will soon learn if Harold Camping is correct or not. And if he isn’t, what will be his explanation this time around?