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Harold Camping

I’m writing this the evening of May 21. Jesus Christ didn’t have enough information to name a date for His return, and  He said “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels in heaven, but my Father only.” Mt 24:36. However, there is someone in California named Harold Camping who preaches he knows the day and the hour of the Lord’s coming, and it is today.

The doubters are enjoying this. Reuter’s carried a story that included this:

On Saturday, some atheists in different parts of the country held celebrations and get-togethers to mark the failure of Camping’s May 21 prediction to come true.

In Oakland, the same city where Camping’s network is based, over 200 people gathered at an atheist convention where speakers joked about the Judgment Day pronouncement and a vendor sold jewelry with the words “Good without God.

Mr. Camping’s followers sacrificed greatly to get out his false message. The Reuter’s article also states:

In New York, retired transportation agency worker Robert Fitzpatrick was inspired by Camping’s message to spend over $140,000 of his savings on subway posters and outdoor advertisements warning of the May 21 Judgment Day.

As he stood in Times Square in New York surrounded by onlookers, Fitzpatrick, 60, carried a Bible and handed out leaflets as he waited for Judgment Day to begin.

When the hour came and went, he said: “I do not understand why …,” as his speech broke off and he looked at his watch. “I do not understand why nothing has happened.”

How terribly sad this is for this man and many like him. My heart goes out to the sincere believers in Jesus who were misled by Mr. Camping. My hope is they will become disillusioned with the man who said he knew the day and hour and not with our Lord who said no one does.

This is, of course, nothing new. On October 22, 1844 the followers of a Baptist preacher named William Miller expected to be raptured. Mr. Miller’s study of the Daniel and Revelation led him to predict the precise time of the Rapture.  Later that day, Dr. Josiah Litch, one of those who trusted Mr. Miller, wrote:

“It is a cloudy and dark day here- the sheep are scattered- the Lord has not come yet.”

Who are the losers here? Not God who isn’t essentially diminished or enhanced by anything sinful people like us do. I think the major losers are the doubters who will be assisted in their self-destructive doubt and weak believers who will equate Mr. Camping’s foolish words with the Bible and lose confidence in the Bible. The point will be lost on many that the Bible is precisely accurate in the Harold Camping matter: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels in heaven, but my Father only.” Mt. 24:36

Who is the theological winner? Clearly, this will strengthen the hand of the folks who reject the clear Biblical teaching of a rapture that is imminent but not necessarily scheduled for Saturday evening. They will misidentify Mr. Camping’s excesses with our pre-mill and pre-trib beliefs and not realize he shares one point of common error with them: he is inconsistent in applying historical-grammatical hermeneutics.  Though they reach far different conclusions than those of Mr. Camping, their errors are both cut from the same cloth of not consistently letting the Bible speak for itself in all matters including prophecy.

Thirty-five years ago, the wind blew a scrap of paper against my leg as I walked across a ball field. I picked up the paper and read some excellent advice for all of us. It said:

Have Scripture for all you say and do;
Where Scripture’s silent, you be silent too.

Chris Owens
About the Author
Chris Owens founded Global Baptist Schools in 2003 and serves as the Chairman of the Executive Board of the Ministry.