Christian broadcaster Harold Camping got far more attention than he deserved about his May 21 prophecy regarding the return of Jesus. Everywhere we turned, even on ESPN’s Sports Center last Friday night and Saturday, his prediction about the rapture on Saturday May 21 got huge attention. I wonder how much money was spent on ads, billboards and announcements? I wonder what this money could have done if it had been invested wisely in the kingdom of God? I wonder when Christians will honestly stop listening to this stuff? I wonder why we talked so much about these foolish prophecies?
Camping now offers a simple explanation for his failed prediction — he miscalculated the real date. We’ve been here before with this man and will be again if people keep talking about him and listening to him.
Instead of the world physically coming to an end on May 21 — with a great, cataclysmic earthquake – the 89 year-old Harold Camping said his forecast is now playing out "spiritually." The actual apocalypse is really set to occur five months later, on October 21. If you know nineteenth century millennial fervor you already know that this kind of response has been tried before. Check out the Millerite Movement and all that followed this era of failed predictions about Christ’s return. This kind of stuff has always been closely linked with the fervor of revivalism and was so as well in the late 1960s during the Jesus Movement. I had several college students on a gospel team I led drop out of school and end their work with me because the coming of Christ was thought to be so near.
Camping said on his Open Forum program last week that it "dawned" on him that a "merciful and compassionate God" would spare humanity from "hell on earth for five months" by compressing the physical apocalypse into a shorter time frame. How clever! But Camping insists that October 21 has always been the end-point of his own end times chronology. And who cares? Well, I am sure some do and some are ready to walk away from the faith altogether because of this false teaching. This is the greatest tragedy of all.
When Harold Camping was asked what advice he would give to followers who gave up much or all of their worldly possessions in the belief that his judgment day forecast would come true, Camping drew a comparison to the nation's recent economic slump. "We just had a great recession. There's lots of people who lost their jobs, lots of people who lost their houses … and somehow they all survived.”
Camping added, with a totally disingenuous statement:"People cope, he added. "We're not in the business of giving any financial advice. We're in the business of telling people maybe there is someone you can talk to, and that's God."
Why do I say Camping is disingenuous? Because he has been profoundly wrong before and he will be wrong again yet he is simply never willing to admit his mistakes in an honest and credible way. And he certainly has not stopped his appeal for people to leave all visible churches and send him their money. All the marks of false and debased teaching are clearly present in this con man.
I was asked last week if I would sit down and talk with Camping? I had to think about that one for a moment. I suppose I might, and suggested that I would, but then I thought about Jesus’ statement about “casting pearls before swine” and about the foolishness of prophets like Camping and had a second thought. What would I say? What would you say, if you could talk to Harold Camping? I think it would be an exercise in spiritual futility.
My prayer: “Lord have mercy on all those who were caught up in the Harold Camping deception and the attending media charade. Have mercy on those whose simple faith has been misled and whose lives are now profoundly harmed by these false predictions. Amen.”