Camping On Harold One Last Time

October 31, 2011

As you might have heard, Harold Camping has resigned from Family Radio and repented of his sin. Obviously, this is a good thing. The whole ordeal reminds me of how difficult it is to run well for an entire life. Family Radio was a strong ministry for years. I remember hearing as a little kid how much my grandmother, who lived in the Bay Area, appreciated the ministry of KEAR. We need to be on our knees asking for the grace needed to run well until God calls us home.

My letter in the Bowman newsletter this month discusses the situation with Mr. Camping. It should arrive in mailboxes tomorrow. If you don’t mind reading the article from a screen instead of paper, here it is:

As you probably know, Harold Camping was again wrong in his prediction concerning the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus was supposed to gather his elect (Matthew 24:31) on October 21, 2011. (I know you know the prediction was wrong, but you might not have known about the prediction in the first place.) This is the third time he’s missed the date of Christ’s return. Back in the early 90’s Camping had predicted that Jesus would return in 1994. Then, earlier this year, he was adamant that Jesus would return on May 21. Some were so convinced of his veracity that they sold their stuff and gave the proceeds to Camping’s ministry in an effort to promote the message of salvation. While their desire to spread the good news is commendable, their spiritual radar was definitely either turned off or malfunctioning.

What do we learn from this third strike from Mr. Camping? First, we need to have at least a rudimentary grasp of the basic truths of the word lest we too are gullible. Jesus was exceedingly clear in Matthew 24:36 that no one would know about the timing of his return. The angels don’t know; the Son in his humanity didn’t know. If this is true, why in the world would we think that Mr. Camping or Mr. Lugg or anybody else would know the date of Jesus’ return? Language means something. Words are strung together on a page to communicate something specific. When Jesus said, “no one knows,” he meant “no one knows.” When we can reshape a clear message into something that means the very opposite, we’re in trouble. (I, of course, realize that there is such a thing as irony.) This manipulation of the text happens frequently in our day. The word of God is a precious gift. We must guard and heed its clear message.

Second, even though we don’t know when Jesus will return, we do know the basic outline of the last days. Space prohibits me from mapping out the contours of the future. Broadly, we know that Jesus will return and then there will be the judgment (Matthew 16:27, 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12). This schema is repeated over and over again throughout the New Testament. But, more narrowly, we know that, “Our gathering together to him … will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1-3). Pastor Bob just covered this in his Sunday school class. The truth of these verses is clear. While we don’t know the day or the hour of the Son’s return, we will know when he’s in the neighborhood. We’ll know because “the rebellion” (Pastor Bob says that this is a reference to some in the visible church falling away.) will have taken place and the “man of lawlessness” (the Antichrist) is revealed. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:4 wrote that the day (the return of Christ, 4:16) won’t surprise believers. All this say, since the rebellion has not occurred and the Antichrist hasn’t been revealed (He has to be a global figure.), we know that Jesus isn’t going to return today. So, even if Mr. Camping were able to manipulate “no one know the day or the hour” to mean, “I know the day,” other scriptures indicate that Christ’s return could never have happened on October 21.

Finally, while Camping’s date setting was flawed on a number of levels, it did have one positive result. (Negatively, the lost had another reason to scoff at believers and our God.) It forced people to think about their preparedness for Christ’s return. This is never a bad thing. After Jesus announced his return in Matthew 24 he said, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” The Second Coming is an exciting truth. It reminds us that one day everything will be made right and we’ll be ushered into God’s glory. It reminds us to live for what really matters. People’s eternal destiny is at stake. How foolish we are when our resources are primarily used to make this brief life comfortable. Let’s live like we really believe Jesus is coming for us. Stay awake!


5 Responses to “Camping On Harold One Last Time”

  1. Well said and written Mark! I talked or chatted with Camping a few times on his radio program, and I think he is a real Christian man (though perhaps a bit of a kind of Calvinist fundamentalist), and certainly a lone ranger. And in reality he is theologically light, and non-creedal. But he has errored against the Church and the Body of Christ!

  2. Mark Says:

    Robert, you are like Forrest Gump. You have had such an amazing life! I would never question Camping’s faith, just his hermenutics and wisdom (who goes against everyone in the church?).

    • I hope that is an “intellectual” Gump? 😉 I did inherit a bit of money after my father died, and made it into something more, but not shrimp boats. lol But the ministry has always been my first love In Christ! Now, I am semi-retired, but always a pastor-teacher..shepherd.

      Funny Camping is toward my fathers generation, Dad died at 88, several years back now. They were more self-made men in that time, and I don’t just mean money. I did seek something of my father’s path, and I was my Father’s son! I am one of those first-born. I was taught to press it! But always walking in your “line”.

  3. Mark Says:

    Yes, I suppose an “intellectual” Gump or a “spiritual” Gump. You’ve done of a lot of things and probably met a lot of people.

    You probably have a point about Camping’s generation. He certainly built a great ministry. It’s just too bad he’s finished the way he has. I’m not a fan of retirement but perhaps he held on too far past his prime.

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