If you have plans for this Sunday, May 22nd, you may want to cancel them! Saturday, May 21st is the end of the world! That is what Harold Camping, the 89 year old founder of Family Radio, is telling his listeners. Apparently, they are listening! Billboards in local communities and messages all over the internet have erupted a firestorm of support and opposition. Either way you view Harold Camping, in just a few short days, the truth will be known. Either he is right and the end of the world is coming, or he will be found to be a false prophet and a liar – once again. That’s right, this isn’t the first time Harold Camping has predicted the end of the world. In 1994 he made a similar “D-day” claim, but according to Camping, his calculations were flawed.
A few weeks ago, I was part of a team from our church that traveled to Ecuador to begin a church plant in the rural Zhud community. On our way home, we were about to board our flight from Miami to Atlanta after a lengthy layover when one of our team members directed my attention toward two individuals who had joined us in our section of seats wearing bright colored shirts. The shirts combined with matching ball caps were warning us to prepare for the end of the world that is coming on Saturday May 21st. I took this opportunity to talk with them about the coming end, doom, and judgment of God. Needless to say, I was extremely saddened by the response I received from these two individuals. Why did I board my plane with frightening emotions flooding my soul? You will see the specifics below, but at that moment it became a reality to me that real people are sucked up into this whole billboard judgment frenzy!
1. The Wrong Authority
When I addressed the two individuals, the woman was not prepared to have a serious conversation about the issues at hand. She directed me to her traveling companion. This gentleman was prepared to talk about the issues, and seemed to welcome the conversation. However, when I continued to raise my concerns about the message of judgment based on specific biblical texts, he carefully directed me back each time to Camping’s teachings and Family Radio. It was after several diversions from Scripture to Family Radio and Harold Camping that I raised my obvious concern about this gentleman’s authority. I informed this gentleman that we are to base our theological positions on the Word of God alone – not the private interpretation of a man or some organization. He continued to insist that Camping was right and that we were in error. He also insisted that the Scripture I quoted is confined to that era of time when Jesus and His disciples were on earth. Now, according to this gentleman, we have the right to know the date of Jesus’ return based on some time period code that Camping has figured out. Michael S. Rosenwald of The Washington Post explains, Camping “says he came up with the very precise date of May 21 through a mathematical calculation that would probably crash Google’s computers.” Camping suggests that his math returns a result of May 21st 2011.As I walked down the pathway to the airplane, my heart was broken for a man who was standing in the middle of Miami’s international airport warning people of the coming end of the world based on one man’s skewed interpretation – rather than the Word of the living God. All throughout history, we have seen heresy groups and false religions born out of a skewed interpretation of Scripture that takes the Word of God out of context. That is exactly what Camping and his followers have done. They have abused the intent of the biblical author and used the Bible for their own “D-day” campaign. The sad reality is that real people have bought into this theory – and have completely lost touch with reality as they prepare for the end of the world this Saturday! They have based their beliefs on the wrong authority – Camping rather than Christ!
Matthew 24:36-39 - But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
The Scripture – in Jesus’ words – claim that the followers of Christ are not to know the date of Christ’s return. That day is set aside on God’s calendar and is to remain a secret (Acts 1:7). As Jesus clearly teaches, the selected date by God will be a mystery – much like it was during the day of Noah when the flood came unexpectedly. Both the day and the hour of the return of Christ has been concealed by God. Camping has claimed to know both the day and the hour when Christ will return (May 21st at 6pm).
2. Zero Assurance
As I talked with the gentleman in the Miami airport about the end of the world, I asked him a very important question. I asked, “What happens if you wake up on Sunday May 22nd and you are still here?” He responded, “I will be under the wrath of God just like everyone else.” I then asked him the following question, “Why is it that you are standing here in the middle of this airport terminal warning people of the end of the world when you don’t seem to have any true assurance yourself?” He responded, “I can only hope that I am going to be saved.” I was overwhelmed. I told this man that the Bible, our source of divine truth, teaches us that genuine followers of Jesus Christ can have assurance of their eternal destiny (1 John 4:13, 5:13; John 10:28-29). I informed him that my heart was broken for the fact that he was literally preaching a judgment message to everyone around him based on his t-shirt message, but he didn’t have concrete assurance himself.
1 John 5:13 – I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
3. Zero Compassion
The boarding of my plane had started and I had to go, but I wasn’t finished with our conversation! I asked the man for his phone number so that I could call him on the morning of Sunday May 22nd. He refused to give me his number because he said the phone services wouldn’t be in order due to the manifestation of God’s wrath on planet earth. I tried to give him my phone number to call me or e-mail me after May 21st – but he simply refused. He insisted that there would be no hope for any of us (even himself) if he woke up on Sunday May 22nd.Although I had compassion for this man who is obviously confused by Camping’s teachings, he seemed to have little compassion for me and our mission team. If he is right, wouldn’t he have had compassion on me and our team as we were obviously the only people in the airport who were interested in his judgment message? Wouldn’t he desire to preach the truth to us? Instead, he turned to walk away and said, “You just don’t understand.”
4. True Hope
As we turned to walk away for our plane, Chad, one of our team members, made a very important statement to this man. He said, “If you wake up on May 22nd and realize that Harold Camping was wrong, remember there is hope in Jesus Christ.” That is the reality for these two travelers in the Miami airport and for Harold Camping himself. In a few days, it will be known that Camping was wrong and that the entire May 21st campaign was a heretical error. Rather than trying to explain it away based on poor math skills, the right response will be complete surrender to King Jesus. On May 22nd 2011 when all of Camping’s followers awake to the reality that they have believed a lie – they should all turn to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The mercy of Christ is the only answer to the error of Harold Camping. No amount of sophisticated mathematical explanations will be sufficient. The Apostle Paul said, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Leave the dates and plans up to God, but make sure you are in Christ when that day arrives!
Acts 4:12 – And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the cross I cling;- Augustus Toplady
Pastor Josh Buice
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Dr. Albert Mohler’s Article – The End is Near? The False Teaching of Harold Camping
Justin Taylor’s Article – Judgment Day: May 21st, 2011?