Doomsday prophets are nothing new. We have seen dozens of people who have discovered when the world will end come and go. The most recent to gain publicity is Harold Camping of Oakland, CA. He is a radio personality that claims to have “decoded” in Scripture when the end of the world will be upon us. According to Camping the date has been set: May 21, 2011.
Justin Berton of the San Francisco Chronicle has set up a blog on SFGate.com where he will be following Camping and his followers until that date. You can find it here. In case you think this is suspect journalism he has clarified that this is something he (Berton) is doing on his own time.
This is just another person with an excessively elaborate eschatology. It is one thing to read the imagery of Scripture in order to reach some conclusions in regards to what the biblical authors believed about the destiny of our world. It is something altogether different to mark calendars with predictions based on awkward numerology. I know the evangelists write about Jesus speaking of “signs of the times”, but it seems safe to say that for whatever reason we have no idea what we are to be seeking. Every generation has that sign that the world is coming to an end–from the fall of Rome to the Bubonic plague to second World War to Y2K and 9/11–yet we are still here today like we were yesterday.
This does not mean that we should not always be anticipating the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. It does mean we should be careful in regards to how we go about doing this. Awkward predictions and date setting are useless. Even Jesus is said to have told his followers that he did not know the day and hour of his Father’s plans (using the “criteria of embarrassment” the sayings recorded in Mt. 24.36 and Mk. 13.32 are two that should be easily agreed upon as most authentic). Even if the Apostle Paul gave further signs in his two correspondences with the church in Thessaloniki this was a far cry from date setting.
Many interpreters of Paul himself have gone much further than he. For instance, Camping speaks in “rapture” language. I know what people may be trying to say with a basic use of the world but there are few doctrines that have become as overblown as rapture eschatology. Paul writes that we will be ἁρπαγησόμεθα in the clouds in 1 Thessalonians 4.17. In all likelihood he is applying imagery from Daniel 7.13-15 to indicate Christ is the returning son of man figure. If you read the Pauline corpus holistically we have the return of Christ to reign and rule,the resurrection, a judgment, and the renewal of the cosmos. There is nothing about years in heaven during some elaborate tribulation and so forth and so on. Yet I have heard people outline how this whole thing will go down tying Paul with some statements of Jesus in the gospels to the apocalyptic imagery of Revelation creating a beast much uglier than anything depicted in Daniel or Revelation!
While I understand we ought to give ourselves to the interpretation of our holy text in all areas including those that speak of how God intends on wrapping up the current age there ought to be more caution. We should say only as much as we feel that Jewish eschatological hopes, the Jesus event’s reformatting of those hopes, and brief glimpses of exposition by the early church allow us to say. This is plenty and it should be enough. We do not need to (as one of my former professors has said) read the Bible in one hand with the New York Times in the other.
As one commenter on this blog has rightly noted it is likely that there will be aspects of the Second Coming that surprised us as much as the first coming surprised the Jewish experts of Scripture in those days. We should be thankful for what glimpses we have been given (i.e. “through a glass, darkly”) while respecting that this is all we have been given. We have been called to have faith when the son of man returns (Lk. 18.18) not a chart telling him how he should do so.
Another day, another dilettante.
Pretty much exactly what I was going to post today, point for point.
Whoops, wrong post. that was for the Anne Rice post…sorry!
Though if you agree with me here point for point as well I am fine with that. 🙂
Ha. As it stands, I do. So there.
Well, when I first heard Camping’s assertion, I found it very interesting. However, I then heard him assert some things about the nature of judgment day that I found heretical, so I decided to completely dismiss Camping’s assertion about May 21.
After a while, I found myself agreeing with the wierd things he was saying about the nature of judgment day. I wrote a blog about this at:
in order to capture my thinking about it and to discuss with others; the whole idea is actually very peculiar.
The Judgment Day seems to me to be one of those very vague images in Scripture. We have a resurrection and the judgment of the righteous and the unrighteous. The picture in Revelation (including new heaven-new earth and hell) is more in-depth than Paul but not elaborate by any means.
Thanks Brian. I agree.
I would be interested in your take on my (seemingly) heretical assertion:
I will try to take a look at it sometime soon.
Mr. Camping is a modern day apostate from the Christian faith. First, he believes in the five points of Calvinism which are all wrong except the eternal security of saved persons, which is similar to Perseverence of the Saints.
He used to believe in one final resurrection either to Heaven or Hell, but now believes that the unsaved rejecters of Christ will be annihilated and forgotten in the bowels of the earth. This means sin like a demon and the worst that can happen to you is to be forever forgotten by the Lord and humankind. This false prophet, Camping, has never been trained in Hermaneutics and thus all the errors. When he debated Dr. White, Mr. Camping said he never heard of the Grammatical-Historical interpretation of the Word of God, the Bible. He has no right to interpret Scripture on the radio air ways; he is the ‘Hymenaeus’ of II Timothy 2:17 in our day but could himself be not a ‘born again Christian.’ Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23 that not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord, shall ENTER into the Kingdom of Heaven.’
His date setting is beyond ‘the pale’ of orthodoxy where Jesus says that only the Father knows the coming of Jesus for His church. Even His angels are not aware of the exact time of Jesus coming.
Also, in I Corinthians 11 we are told to minister Holy Communion until Jesus comes. Has Christ come for His people? No. Therefore, the Eucharist in bread and wine are to be given to the saints at times during the year when they remember Jesus’ death until He comes.
Also, in I Thessalonians 4:16 tells us that only the saved, ‘the dead in Christ’ will arise at the coming of the Lord for His saints–called the Rapture of the church. The unsaved souls will be resurrected at the end of time, after the Great Tribulation and when the Theocratic Kingdom on earth has come to a conclusion. The wicked judgment is found in Revelation 20:11-15 and they will be cast into the Lake of fire, the opposite of what this false prophet, Mr. Camping proclaims.
Mr. Camping was not in the same league with his debate with Dr. White. Camping is lost in his dotage and should be banned from Christian radio. Presbyterian ministers and professors from Dallas Theological Seminary have warned Mr. Camping, but he continues in his belligerance.
An excellent volume is “Things to Come” by Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost, Th.D., Zondervan Publishing House.
The Rev. Dr. I. Ray Berrian, Th.D. & Ph.D. http://www.spreadthewordministries.org
I appreciate your taking an interest in this matter and the wisdom you have expressed.
But I do want to say that it was Harold’s assertion that the Church has been teaching wrong doctrine about the nature of the wrath of God that really got a hold of me. At first, I considered that he had become a complete heretic, but as I really began to look into this matter, I realized that the teaching about some place of torment after death is one of those destructive heresies that has crept in unawares, likely from the influence of islam, but I am not positive about that…I have created a blog about this if you would like to weigh in on it:
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