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Harold Camping and the end of the world


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#1 CrimsonLine

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 02:02 PM

Here's another blog post I worked up, that I submit for edification and for comment.


On Harold Camping and God’s Judgment
By Rev. Denes House
May 11, 2011

This past weekend, my family was in Washington, DC, seeing some of the sights. It was thrilling to walk the National Mall, have our picture taken in front of the White House, and stand next to the Star Trek: The Original Series U.S.S. Enterprise shooting model in the National Air and Space Museum. I had been to DC before, so these sights were somewhat familiar. What was new to me were the many people wearing day-glo yellow tee shirts, handing out pamphlets about the end of the world.

They are followers of Harold Camping, a Christian radio talk show host who has calculated that May 21, 2011 will see the return of Jesus Christ, and the rapture of the Church. According to Camping, the end of the world will follow five months later on October 21, 2011. Camping, a former engineer, bases his calculations on dates and numbers pulled from the Bible. One of his many proofs for this calculation is that in Genesis 7:10, God tells Noah that the flood will begin in seven days. Camping then points out that 2 Peter 3:8 indicates that with God, one day is like a thousand years. Camping argues that this means that 7000 years after the flood of Noah will come the Judgment Day. Camping believes that the flood took place in 4990 B.C., so Judgment Day will be in 2011. Camping calls this “irrefutable proof.”

The Bible warns us of two errors to avoid when talking about the return of Jesus. The first error is to claim that Jesus is not returning to the world in judgment. The 2 Peter passage that Camping uses in his Noah argument speaks of this error:

“…scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’” (2 Peter 3:3–4)

These scoffers argue that everything continues as it always has been, and there will be no end of time, no final judgment. To the scoffers, Peter counters with the example of Noah, and points out that God has already intervened once to judge the world. It is foolishness to deny that God will do it again, as He has promised. God is not slow, Peter argues. Rather, He is patiently waiting and working to draw people to repentance. It is in this context that Peter says that to God, “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8) This doesn’t mean that in every prophecy, the word “day” is a symbol for 1000 years. If that were the case, then what would we do with Jesus’ prophecy that He would rise from the grave three days after He was crucified? No, Peter’s point is that time scales that seem long to humanity are brief to God, and even a brief time in human existence can fill a thousand years of God’s attention. But make no mistake, Peter says, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief.” (2 Peter 3:10) It will come, and it will come as a surprise.

Which leads directly to the second warning that the Bible gives about the timing of Jesus’ return, and that is the error of setting dates. Speaking of His return, Jesus said:

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

This is the error that Camping falls into, and he’s fallen into it before. In his 1992 book, 1994?, Camping predicted that September of 1994 would be the time of Jesus’ return. When 1994 came and went without the return of Jesus, Camping attributed his failed prophecy to a mathematical error. In reality, his error is trying to calculate the date in the first place.

I would be delighted if Jesus returned to the earth for His people next Saturday. I’d be even happier if it was today! But we cannot let our eagerness for Christ’s return override the clear teaching of Scripture: we will not know the date of His return ahead of time.

In some ways, the Bible says, the people of God will not be surprised by Jesus’ return. In 1 Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul illuminates Peter’s statement that the day of the Lord will come like a thief. This will be so for the scoffers, Paul indicates, not for believers. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11) This doesn’t mean that believers will know the date of Jesus’ return, but we will see the signs that will precede His return (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12, Matthew 24:29-31) and we will be ready. This is the key point of Jesus’ warning against date-setting: “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Matthew 24:42) We must be ready, precisely because we don’t know the exact timing of His return.

Harold Camping is wrong to set dates for the return of Jesus. But he is right to anticipate the coming of the Lord. When Jesus returns to the earth, He will return as the judge of all mankind. We will all stand before His judgment seat, and our lives will be examined with absolute justice. It is a judgment that no one will be able to withstand – none of us are righteous enough to pass God’s standard (Romans 3:10). Apart from a miracle, all of us are destined to be burned up in the fire of God’s judgment (2 Peter 3:7).

Thankfully, God has worked the miracle that we need to survive. Jesus’ second coming will complete the work He began at His first coming. In Jesus, God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). He lived a perfect life, and took on Himself the sins of the world, dying the punishing death that we deserve, in our place (Romans 3:23-26). In the miracle of God’s mercy, anyone who hides themselves in Jesus – dying with Him to self, and being raised up with Him in new life – will be judged on the Last Day according to Jesus’ righteousness, rather than their own (Romans 3:21-22).

Jesus may not return on May 21, 2011. But He is coming again as Judge. Camping ignores the Bible’s warning not to set dates for the Second Coming, and I believe that on May 22, he will look incredibly foolish. But anyone who ignores the Bible’s warning to be ready for Jesus’ return will look much worse on the real Judgment Day. Jesus offers to save and make new anyone who will come to Him. Be made new and righteous today by accepting His offer and committing yourself to Him. Anyone who does so will not be put to shame (Romans 10:11).

Edited by CrimsonLine, 11 May 2011 - 02:54 PM.


#2 SDG

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 02:21 PM

How many strikes will this be for Camping?

#3 Thom Wade

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 02:28 PM

So far, I believe it will be two strikes. One more than required for a false prophet to be stoned.

#4 mrmando

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 02:42 PM

Camping has also declared that the "age of the church" ended in 1988. Reportedly this means God has no further use for churches, and the only true body of believers is Camping's radio ministry/parachurch organization; furthermore, anyone remaining a member of a church after May 21 will go to hell, or something like that (this on a cursory review of secondary sources). If you want a third strike, that ought to do.

Would I throw the first stone at Camping? No, but I might mail him one with his name on it.

#5 Tyler

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 02:51 PM

Link to the thread for Waiting for Armageddon, a documentary about Christians awaiting the end of the world.

#6 SDG

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 03:34 PM

So far, I believe it will be two strikes. One more than required for a false prophet to be stoned.

I'm pretty sure it's more than that actually. Wikipedia only mentions 1994 but I believe he had a follow-up prediction for 1995 and possibly others as well.

#7 Greg P

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 04:06 PM

Jesus may not return on May 21, 2011. But He is coming again as Judge. Camping ignores the Bible’s warning not to set dates for the Second Coming, and I believe that on May 22, he will look incredibly foolish.

And the scary thing is, he won't really care. Anyone want to wager exactly how he will spin this on May 22nd? More horrifying is that whether he has 2,3, or 10 strikes against him, a sizable number of people will continue to follow his pronouncements until the day he dies.

I guess a good fanbase is hard to lose-- just ask Jim James.

Edited by Greg P, 11 May 2011 - 04:19 PM.


#8 morgan1098

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 04:16 PM

I recently read an article in which Camping (or one of his flock) claims that on May 21, the world won't end all at once... it will end at "6:00 local time," no matter where you live. Sort of like rolling black outs. :) I wonder where they got the biblical formula for THAT?

#9 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 05:05 PM

Earth-Bound Pets must be raking in the cash.

#10 mrmando

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 06:47 PM

BTW, one anagram of HAROLD CAMPING is AM HOLDING CRAP, just in case you wanted to know.

#11 Tyler

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 08:32 PM

NPR ran a story on this a few days ago.

#12 Greg P

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 09:11 PM

BTW, one anagram of HAROLD CAMPING is AM HOLDING CRAP, just in case you wanted to know.

Martin, FTW!

#13 CrimsonLine

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 05:44 AM

So far, I believe it will be two strikes. One more than required for a false prophet to be stoned.

I'm pretty sure it's more than that actually. Wikipedia only mentions 1994 but I believe he had a follow-up prediction for 1995 and possibly others as well.


You might be thinking of Edgar Whisenant, whose 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 1988 was followed in 1989 by The final shout: Rapture report 1989, then 23 reasons why a pre-tribulation rapture looks like it will occur on Rosh-Hashanah 1993, and finally And now the earth's destruction by fire, nuclear bomb fire (1994).

Whisenant was the one that I knew about, growing up. I still have a copy of 88 Reasons. I show it to people and tell them that I think it's the most important book ever written about the Rapture - because it teaches us not to write books like that.

#14 Thom Wade

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 07:44 AM

I worked at a Christian bookstore at the time 88 Reasons came out. People bought it up, but was always a little surprised that after the date passed, nobody tried to erturn the book.

#15 Andy Whitman

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 07:49 AM


So far, I believe it will be two strikes. One more than required for a false prophet to be stoned.

I'm pretty sure it's more than that actually. Wikipedia only mentions 1994 but I believe he had a follow-up prediction for 1995 and possibly others as well.


You might be thinking of Edgar Whisenant, whose 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 1988 was followed in 1989 by The final shout: Rapture report 1989, then 23 reasons why a pre-tribulation rapture looks like it will occur on Rosh-Hashanah 1993, and finally And now the earth's destruction by fire, nuclear bomb fire (1994).

Whisenant was the one that I knew about, growing up. I still have a copy of 88 Reasons. I show it to people and tell them that I think it's the most important book ever written about the Rapture - because it teaches us not to write books like that.

I wonder if there was ever a 0 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 2000 followup.

#16 mrmando

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 11:08 AM

I'm pretty sure it's more than that actually. Wikipedia only mentions 1994 but I believe he had a follow-up prediction for 1995 and possibly others as well.

Camping's excuse for the 1994 mistake is that he had overlooked the book of Jeremiah. 1994 was 17 years ago, and 17 is an important number to Camping, who says it represents heaven. (Who knew? Maybe these guys did.)

Edited by mrmando, 12 May 2011 - 11:09 AM.


#17 mrmando

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 11:24 AM

I wonder if there was ever a 0 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 2000 followup.

There might have been a 1 Reason I Won't Write Any More Books after 2001...

#18 CrimsonLine

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 11:38 AM



So far, I believe it will be two strikes. One more than required for a false prophet to be stoned.

I'm pretty sure it's more than that actually. Wikipedia only mentions 1994 but I believe he had a follow-up prediction for 1995 and possibly others as well.


You might be thinking of Edgar Whisenant, whose 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 1988 was followed in 1989 by The final shout: Rapture report 1989, then 23 reasons why a pre-tribulation rapture looks like it will occur on Rosh-Hashanah 1993, and finally And now the earth's destruction by fire, nuclear bomb fire (1994).

Whisenant was the one that I knew about, growing up. I still have a copy of 88 Reasons. I show it to people and tell them that I think it's the most important book ever written about the Rapture - because it teaches us not to write books like that.

I wonder if there was ever a 0 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 2000 followup.


Awesome! :)

#19 opus

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 11:56 AM

As one of my friends on Facebook put it:

I know it's ridiculous and embarrassing, but having grown up expecting Jesus to come back and/or nuclear war to break out ANY SECOND for my entire life until my late teens, there's a part of me that will always panic when people make these "Judgment Day" announcements. I may try to laugh it off, but I'm going to be subconsciously freaking out until May 22nd.

We live a few block away from some train tracks. Most of the time, the train whistles fade into the background. One morning, however, one of the train whistles must've gotten stuck or something, because it just kept going and going. So I woke up to this long, droning roar of a whistle, and I have to admit, I couldn't help wondering if it was one of the angels' trumpets.

#20 mrmando

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 01:12 PM

EDGAR WHISENANT : ENDANGERS A WHIT

Bible numerology and, to some extent, the whole end-times prophecy mumbo-jumbo, are amusing little games, because every time you lose, you can say, "Wait ... if we change the rules, we can play another round!"

Edited by mrmando, 12 May 2011 - 02:34 PM.