October 21st, 2011 was supposed to be Harold Camping’s real-and-true, no-fooling-this-time Judgement Day! For those who may have missed the original discussion over at TRU-Life Adventures, here’s what I had to say regarding May 21st (posted originally on May 20th):
While I’m Thinking About It
Kind of last minute, I know
Harold Camping of Family Radio (this link is timing out at the time of writing, but here is a snapshot from the Internet Archive, dated 10/23/2010) has received a lot of attention recently, for his announcement that the rapture is scheduled for May 21st, 2011, and that the world will end a few months later, on October 21st. What’s been getting less attention is his claim that God has pulled His blessing from every church and ministry that is not his own, as well as his prediction back in 1992 that Jesus would return in 1994. Judging by his site, he may also be King James Only (or else taking advantage of the public domain), but that’s not relevant for this discussion.
Those of us who call ourselves Christians are exhorted in scripture to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15). As an example of rightly handling the word of truth, we have the example of a group of Jews in Berea, who, according to Acts chapter 17, reacted to the Gospel as presented by Paul by searching the scriptures for themselves to see if what they were being told had any merit.
When we search the scriptures for information regarding Jesus’s second coming, what we find are some very clear, unambiguous statements.
In the first chapter of Acts, the disciples ask the resurrected Jesus if the time had come for Israel’s restoration as a kingdom. He tells them, “He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or seasons the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7)
Earlier than that, before the crucifixion, he tells them “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32)
Some time later, in his first letter to the church in Thessalonika, Paul writes “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”(1 Thessalonians 5:1-2)
Unlike, say, the Spanish Inquisition, which nobody ever expects, there are certain precautions one can take to protect against a thief. Similarly, we will not be surprised when Christ returns. All of which is to say that Camping is as wrong to try putting a specific date on the second coming now as he was back in 1992.
And, God willing, I’ll see you all again on Monday.
For those who may have missed it, after May 21st came and went with no mass Rapture, Mr. Camping had a couple of choices. He could have repented, admitted the limits of his human understanding, and asked for forgiveness. Instead, he doubled down, declared the May 21st non-event a “spiritual” occurance, and stuck to his guns regarding the end of the world on October 21st. To be fair, as we’ve approached that day, he seems to have toned down his rhetoric.
Camping’s example puts the lie to old cliche that “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere.” If we’re generous and assume that the gentleman has been sincere in his beliefs, those beliefs still led to confusion and disappointment for himself, and those things plus disillusionment for his followers.