By now, you have probably heard or read the prediction of the Judgment Day falling on May 21, 2011. This prediction comes from a man named Harold Camping, who leads an organization called "Family Radio” and owns fifty-five radio stations. Camping has spread his prediction around the country through his radio program, his followers, and a huge advertising campaign that includes thousands of billboards stating, "Judgment Day is coming May 21, 2011,” and, "The Bible guarantees it.” Based on his prediction, Camping has called on all who profess Christianity to forsake their churches to follow and support him.
Harold Camping’s website explains that his prediction is based on evidence he has interpreted from the Bible concerning dates and prophecies. By his use of numerology, Camping claims to have determined the date of the worldwide flood of Noah’s time (supposedly 4990 B.C.). He then interprets the seven days between God’s commandment to Noah to enter the ark and the beginning of the flood (Gen. 7:4, 10) as symbolic of 7,000 years between that same date and the destruction of the earth. His prediction of 7,000 years comes from an application of a phrase from 2Peter 3:8, which says, "…with the Lord one day is as a thousand years…” There is much more that Camping has written about his prediction, but the end result is that he claims May 21, 2011, is to be the beginning of the Judgment when God will "rapture” about 200 million people into heaven.
There is so much wrong with Harold Camping’s prediction that it cannot be fully addressed in the scope of this article. The most obvious problem is that this cryptic and highly subjective prediction conflicts with the plain and literal messages of the Bible concerning the coming of Christ and the Judgment Day. Beyond this, Camping has built bad predictions on top of bad predictions and false interpretations so that he has no solid foundation upon which to stand. His supposed precise dating of the flood is flawed, for no man knows exactly when the flood occurred, and God has not revealed it. Camping’s interpretation of 7,000 years is also flawed, for He arbitrarily chose the seven days of Genesis 7:4 without any contextual reason to believe this was prophetic of the final Judgment. Furthermore, the same Bible passage that states, "…with the Lord one day is as a thousand years…,” also states, "..and a thousand years as one day.” This passage, 2Peter 3:8, was not given as a key for interpreting prophecies but rather as a measure of God’s indifference to time and His patience toward sinners. Even Camping’s concept of the Judgment Day is wrong, for the Bible does not describe a separate "rapture,” but rather it describes one comprehensive event in which the dead are raised and judged with the living, the earth is destroyed, and each soul goes to his reward (Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32; John 5:28-29; Rom. 2:5-10; 1Cor. 15:20-28, 51-57; 2Cor. 5:10; 1Thess. 4:13-5:11; 2Thess. 1:5-10; 2Pet. 3:1-15). In fact, the idea of the "rapture” originated with a man named John Nelson Darby in 1830 rather than originating in the Bible.
Harold Camping is just one of many who have predicted the end of the world. William Miller, who was the founder of Adventism, predicted that the Lord would come in 1843 and 1844. Charles Taze Russell and his Watchtower Society believed that Christ returned invisibly in 1874 and that the world would end in 1914. When his 1914 date failed, Russell revised it to 1915. When Russell died in 1916, Joseph Franklin Rutherford then took control of the organization and made similar predictions for 1918, 1920, and 1925. These are just a few of the many who have made such false predictions, and even Harold Camping previously predicted that Christ would come in 1994.
Why do men continually make these false predications of that which cannot be known? It is not within our ability to judge the thoughts and the intentions of the heart, but the word of God can do so (Heb. 4:12). The Bible speaks of some men who preach from envy, strife, and selfish ambition (Phil. 1:15, 17). Perhaps these false prophets make their predictions to cause divisions and gather followers for themselves. The Bible also speaks of men who preach their religion for profit (2Cor. 2:17; 1Tim. 6:3-5; Tit. 1:11). Perhaps the tremendous amount of money that has been given to these men by people who are deceived has motivated them. Whatever the reasons, God will judge rightly those who have deceived others with false words and unbiblical teachings.
Rather than relying on fallible men for knowledge pertaining to the Judgment Day, let us rely on the word of God in the Bible. Let us be convinced that Christ is coming, that there will be a Judgment Day, and that we need to be ready today and always. The Bible intentionally omits any specific prediction of the date for the Judgment Day, which means that we must always be prepared. "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober” (1Thess. 5:4-6). Many have been deceived and harmed by men such as Harold Camping, and the cause of Christ has suffered ridicule and harm because of such false predictions. Let us not be deceived, but rather let us stand firmly on the truth of the Bible and defend the faith for which we stand. Jesus will come when the Father has determined, not when men decide.
Stacey E. Durham
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