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Harold Camping and the Prophets of Doom

Since you are reading this, it is obvious that one of two things happened: 1) “Judgment Day” has begun and we missed “the Rapture” or 2) Harold Camping, the “prophet” from, was wrong.  I am going with option 2, how about you?


The Lord said, “’But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ — when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him’” (Deut. 18:20-22).


So, according to the Lord, Harold Camping is a false prophet and we should not fear his warnings—Camping speaks presumptuously and his warnings are not from God. The fact is, Harold Camping has been wrong before, but he hedged his bets on his 1994 doomsday prediction with a question mark in the title of his book “1994?”. You would think that this would have been the end of his “ministry” … sadly, it was not. Instead, people gave him 30 million dollars to fund his current attempt at predicting the unpredictable and many bought into it. It really is a miserable testimony.


Still, Harold Camping is not the first to attempt to try to predict the end of the world, nor will he be the last. Many “Christian” denominations have been built on the backs of such false prophets. Among them you will find Ellen White of the Seventh Day Adventist church, C.T. Russell of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, and Joseph Smith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka, the Mormons). All of these individuals predicted the end of the world. All of them were wrong.


Jesus warned us to “beware of false prophets” (Matt. 7:15a). Even during the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, Jesus warned there were “many false prophets” (Matt. 24:11). Since then there have been many more. Peter said, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Pet. 2:1-2). Let us not ignore such plain and clear warnings.


On the other hand, it is not just the “prophecies” about the end of the world that are wrong, but also the dogmas behind these “prophesies.” Even some of the passages used to answer these prophets are being abused.


For example, any dogma built upon a literal interpretation of the book of Revelation is troubled from the start. First of all, the book of Revelation was written using a figurative language called “apocalyptic literature,” making any literal interpretation false. Such is the case with pre-millennialism. The doctrine of the whole “Left Behind” dogma is not founded upon a solid understanding and hermeneutic. Add to this the difficulty of applying this figurative language to modern, real world events and you are going to beget even more error. Most fail to realize that the book of Revelation was primarily given to encourage first century saints in a time of great persecution for them. Time fails in the span of this short article to deal with all of the error, but I would challenge everyone to honestly and seriously consider the opposing arguments to pre-millennialism before they buy into it wholesale.


On the other hand, many tend to take something our Lord said regarding a very specific event and history and apply it specifically to the end judgment. Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matt. 24:36). Over time, I have become convinced that this passage, while in principle might apply to “the Judgment” has more accurate application to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Such an understanding would fit the context more clearly. It is when we wrench this passage from its context that we find the idea of folks being “left behind” in the end days. Such is not the case.


Passages such as Matthew 25:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 and 2 Peter 3:10 better serve the argument that we do not know when the Lord will return. What is revealed is that we “know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” and “the Lord will come as a thief in the night.” So, we know for certain that He did not give us a date and time and there won’t be a lot of warning. Furthermore, there is not a time and date secretly buried in the Bible. All of the number crunching in the world will not reveal it. We need to accept the fact that “the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29).


The fact is, the Lord has called us to be ready! When it comes to the end of time, the Lord’s simple instructions are to “watch and pray,” to “be faithful unto death,” to “be vigilant,” and to “awake out of sleep” (cf. 1 Pet. 4:7;  1 Thess. 5:6-7;  Rev. 2:10; Rom. 13:11, et al). If we are doing this at all times, then the end time is not something we need worry ourselves about. We will be ready. Our lamps will be full (cf. Matt. 25:1-13) and there will be no need for the alarms of “false prophets.”

In these days of social media—modern up-to-the-second around the world communication, we need to realize that with a little bit of money and tad bit of gumption, anyone can set the world a frenzy with crazy proclamations about “the end of the world.” While such false prophets will inevitably be exposed for what they are, don’t let is discount the real warning that God’s word gives us and the small bit a truth that is buried in the message of these men. God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).


Many will mock, as they mocked Harold Camping’s announcement, with post-rapture looting parties and all kinds of other silliness. Even in the first century there were mockers and scoffers (Acts 17:32; 2 Pet. 3:3). It doesn’t change the fact that a day will come when time will be no more. That day will come. We don’t know when, but when it does, we had better be ready.


One last interesting phenomena did arise from all this hoopla about Harold Camping’s May 21, 2011 prediction regarding the end of the world. Many paused, if even for a moment, and took inventory. Many stopped and wondered. Many were even a bit alarmed and a bit unnerved by the “What if?” question! Some took action. Others might yet take action. If anything good comes of all of this, this is it. On that note, I might rejoice. But for the many false prophets of this world and those taken in by them, I will continue to grieve and pray.