New Truths and Old Lies
Vol: 111 Issue: 29 Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I was asked by a reader to comment about the prediction from Family Radio President and founder Harold Camping that the world will end on May 21, 2011.
The reader wanted to know if A) there was any Scriptural basis for Camping’s prediction; and B) Is Harold Camping a reliable Bible teacher?
I first heard of Harold Camping in 1993 after one of his followers sent his book “1994!” to me with an urgent request to investigate its claims for a future “This Week in Bible Prophecy Segment.” (I still have a copy of it in my library.)
Camping said the following in the introduction to his book:
“No book ever written is as audacious or bold as one that claims to predict the timing of the end of the world, and that is precisely what this book presumes to do.”
(Spoiler alert! – The Lord didn’t come back on September 6, 1994 – not even for Harold, who at 89 is still teaching his unique brand of eschatology on his Family Radio Worldwide ministry.)
Instead of the Lord returning in 1994, says Camping, what really happened was the Church Age ended.
In 1914, having wrongly predicted the end of the world six times, Jehovah’s Witness founder Charles Taze Russell declared the world actually DID end, but only spiritually.
It worked for Russell. And it appears to be working for Camping.
Camping therefore was right, sort of, in his audacious book. Since 1994, the Holy Spirit has ceased His work among the churches. See? It was a no-brainer!
Apologist James White writes in a critique of Camping’s theology:
“He [Camping] will normally begin with a proposition, a statement, and then use a biblical passage to support his statement. This is the way of the eisegete (the one reading into the text rather than reading out of the text its natural meaning). He sets up a context, an assertion, and then expects the citation of the biblical passage to “prove” the point….Does Camping take the time to establish the connection? No, he does not. The connection exists solely because Harold Camping insists it does, nothing more.”
Ultimately, Camping forces one to choose to submit to one authority or the other, either Sola Scriptura or Solus Campingus.
The two Witnesses aren’t two literal Witnesses, but are symbolic of the “true believers” either driven out of their churches or who come out in obedience to 2nd Corinthians 6:15.
The rider on the black horse is a warning to the churches that if they do not remain faithful to God, He will take away the Gospel.
The list goes on and on. Camping teaches that hell doesn’t exist. The second death is really annihilation, not eternity in the Lake of Fire.
Camping began teaching that Christians should leave their churches because absent the Holy Spirit, they are all apostate tools of Satan.
“Now, however, the Bay Area prognosticator has baffled the community of Christendom with another rather shocking pronouncement. Camping, who labors under the burden of his own self-designed brand of “millennialism,” has declared that we are at the beginning of the “great tribulation” period, hence the “church age” has ended. He has produced a tract that is titled: “Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End?” He answers his own query in the affirmative.
When one enters the world of “Harold Camping teaching,” he finds himself in a maze of mystery. It is almost as if the gentleman selects a variety of passages fr
om different sections of the Bible — Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Matthew, Luke, or Revelation — and throws them on the floor, to see whether or not a pattern of theology will form.
As noted above, Camping now contends that “the work of the church is finished,” and that those who remain in the church, during the time of the on-coming “tribulation,” will be destroyed. He thus bids the faithful to flee the church. He goes so far as to suggest that if one were to find a church “where it appears that each and every doctrine they hold is faithful to the Word of God,” it should be avoided — if one hopes to escape the impending destruction.”
In these new Camping fellowships, there is to be no discipline, no hierarchy, no baptism, no communion and no authority apart from the Bible (as Camping interprets it).
And so now, we return to the questions at hand. The answers got easier.
Q) Is there any Scriptural basis for Camping’s theory?
Q) Is Harold Camping a reliable Bible teacher?
Harold Camping and Family Radio used to be on the level. Family Radio was once home to J Vernon McGee’s “Through the Bible” broadcast – which probably explains in large part how Family Radio managed to grow to more than 150 stations world-wide.
But in the 90’s Camping started finding “hidden secrets” in the Scriptures — necessitating the reinvention of a few key points in order to make them fit his pre-determined views.
First, Camping decided that the Church Age ended in 1994, and then he set out to prove it using Scripture.
Whenever Scripture seemed to conflict with his theory, he would reinterpret the Scripture until it fit. If thatdidn’t work, he would spiritualize the offending Scriptures away.
By glossing over the differences between the Dispensations, Camping could use the Old Testament to ‘prove’ his theories when they conflicted with the New.
A good example is the New Testament’s prohibition on date setting. Camping admits that Jesus forbade date-setting in Matthew 24:36 and in Acts 1:7 but then cites Ecclesiastes 8:5 as evidence that prohibition doesn’t apply to him.
He writes in his thesis that:
“about thirty-five years ago God began to open the true believers understanding of the timeline of history. . . it was not until a very few years ago that the accurate knowledge of the entire timeline of history was revealed to true believers by God from the Bible.
This timeline extends all the way to the end of time. During these past several years God has been revealing a great many truths, which have been completely hidden in the Bible until this time when we are so near the end of the world.”
The very best lies are those that contain some element of truth.
Which would you be more likely to accidently accept as genuine? A color photocopy of a $100 bill on genuine-feeling paper? Or a square of toilet paper with $100 written on each corner?
The truth is, as we get closer to the end of the age, events confirm the existing truths that were already in the Bible. Events don’t reveal new truths – especially those that contradict the rest of the testimony of Scripture.
Camping’s prediction that the Lord will return in May, 2011 has no more Scriptural support than the many who claim that the Tribulation has already begun or that they have figured out the identity of the antichrist.
But it shares the common methodology of arriving at a conclusion first and then seeking Scripture to support it.
As we get closer to the end of this age, the Bible predicts a rise in false teachers, false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing seeking to use the Scriptures to magnify their own importance.
When a guy claims to have boldly gone where no man has gone before . . . he hasn’t. It is just that simple.
There are no new theologies for the last days. At least, no legitimate ones. There are only people wanting to call attention to themselves by claiming God has revealed something special, just to them.
As we get closer to the end of the age, there are seeming endless theories challenging existing interpretations of end-time doctrines like the timing of Rapture, the start of the Tribulation, the identity of the antichrist and so on.
Let me set your heart to rest. The Bible isn’t getting more true. And if the ‘new’ truths sound nuts to you, don’t worry. They are.
Christianity is at its most basic level, founded on faith. Faith that we can trust in the Promises of God.
Most of the ‘new truths’ are being revealed ‘by God ‘to the select few in these last days who then use these new revelations to preach faith in one’s own ability.
One’s ability to maintain one’s own salvation, for example. Jesus kick-started my redemption at the Cross, but if I want to stay saved, that depends on how well I perform as a Christian.
The Church will have to endure at least part of the Tribulation. So my teaching a pre-Trib Rapture is a heresy that doesn’t prepare Christians for the Mark of the Beast.
Christians need to prepare so that they will be ready for the Mark of the Beast. (Hint: The Bible says “don’t take it.” A better plan is to get saved now.)
You see how it works? The Bible says by their fruits ye shall know them. What is the fruit of all this teaching?
It is all about my God-given ability to discern the hidden knowledge and your ability to use my discerning words of knowledge so that you can circumvent the judgment to come upon those that dwell upon the earth.
Although why Christians have to figure their own way around judgment isn’t clear to me. If they are being judged, then shouldn’t they deserve it? Isn’t that fair?
And if they deserve it, should they be trying to avoid it? Trying to avoid it sounds a lot like trying to beat God at His own game.
What makes more sense is that Christians were already judged at the Cross and are therefore not subject to the judgment of the Tribulation. Which is where the Rapture fits in.
For many, the drawback to the “Rapture theory” is that it means that Jesus does it all. Jesus does the saving, the preserving, the judging — it doesn’t leave much for them to do. (Or to take credit for.)
Truth doesn’t change simply because circumstances do. What was truth when Jesus spoke it is true today.
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)
With that fact in mind, I will make a faith-based prediction of my own. May 21, 2011 is the day that the Rapture won’t happen.
Feel free to make plans.