May 21, 2011 has come and gone with nary a sign of the end of the world. Harold Camping has again joined a long list of false prophets who have wrongly predicted the date and time of the rapture and end of the world. I say again, because Harold Camping made the same prediction in 1994. Perhaps he thought the 17 years was enough time for people to forget. What are we to make of him?
Part of me is angry. It is upsetting to see someone attempt to use the Bible to prove his own theories—especially when the Bible directly forbids the kind of date-setting Camping engages in. If we were living under Old Testament guidelines, Harold Camping would be put to death. In Deuteronomy 18:20 the Lord commands, “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” But thankfully we live under the rule of grace. So what should be our response to Camping and false teachers like him? According to 1 Corinthians 5, those guilty of Old Testament capital offences are to be excommunicated from the church. Believers are to have no fellowship with them and are to pray for their repentance. Harold Camping has dishonored God and his Word, we should pray that he repents of his sins and publically forsakes his errors.
A part of me is saddened. As mentioned previously, Harold Camping is certainly not alone in his errors. There are probably many more doing the same thing today that we just do not know about. But we heard about Camping because he has a large following. It is estimated that his ministry is worth $72 million dollars. He paid for billboards and advertisements to go up all over the country. Followers of Camping quit their jobs; emptied their savings; and sold their possessions to spread his message. What are they going to do now? My heart breaks for those he has lead astray. We must be able to separate false teachers from the “false taught.” We should pray that the Holy Spirit would minster to followers of Camping. We should pray that the Spirit would reveal the truth of Scripture to them. We should pray that the Holy Spirit would take away their faith in a deluded man and give them full confidence in the perfection, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture.
A part of me is actually thankful. I have been pleasantly surprised to see news outlets giving the story fair and accurate coverage. The news accounts I have seen have been careful to point out that even most Christians considered Camping a heretic and repudiated him and his teaching. Nevertheless, the popular response has been very informative. The general public, talk show hosts on radio and T.V., social media like Twitter and Facebook have not been mocking Camping—they have been mocking the very idea of the return of Christ and the end of the world.
Peter wrote, “knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4). If you have listened and watched carefully, you will have noticed that scoffers and scoffing accurately describes the reaction of unbelievers to the idea of the return of Jesus. They have not been mocking Camping, but the very idea that God would judge the earth in righteousness. We have been reminded again that the world is not our friend. Camping’s foolishness has served to bring out the scorn and ridicule that unbelievers have for the Bible and its teaching. The Bible nowhere states that Jesus would return on May 21, 2011; but it does state that Jesus will return. And that is what people have been laughing at. We are reminded again to pray for unbelievers and to faithfully proclaim the gospel. “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes” (Luke 12:43).