Harold Camping is at it again. According to his calculations, today — October 21, 2011 — is supposed to be the end. He’s made this type of prediction before, in 1994 and May 21st of this year. He will be wrong today. I’m so sure of this that I’m on my way to speak on the topic of prophecy today and tomorrow at Holly Ridge Baptist Church (608 Tribal Road, Blacksburg, SC 29702-8394).
Before Harold Camping, there were Chuck Smith and Hal Lindsey and dozens of others. Lindsey is the author of the widely and wildly popular The Late Great Planet Earth (1970). It’s sold around 30 million copies since it was first published. Smith is a popular and well-respected Bible teacher. What many people don’t know or remember is that they set some very specific dates of their own in the 1970s, claiming that the end would come in 1988.
How is it possible that most evangelical critics of Harold Camping don’t take a close look at some of their own number? In nearly every article I’ve read by evangelicals denouncing Camping, they still claim that all the signs are in place for Jesus’ “soon” return.
Most evangelical news sites and radio programs do not want to hear an alternative view that calls into question the incessant harping on last days’ hysteria which falls right into the hands of liberals and radical Islamists hell-bent on spreading their worldview around the world. Too many radio stations and publishing houses make their money off end-time broadcasts and books. As it is, these prophecy “experts” will continue to get people worked up over the claim that the end is near and Jesus’ is coming soon and sell more books. Camping will be denounced as a charlatan and a kook, but little will change in the way prophecy is taught and publishing companies promote the subject.
The New Testament is filled with exhortations that a near eschatological event was on the horizon for those living at that time. Here are some examples:
- “The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12)
- “But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none” (1 Cor. 7:29).
- “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11).
- “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” (Phil. 4:5).1
- “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world” (Heb. 1:2).
- “[Jesus] would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26).
- “[Let us not forsake] our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb. 10:25).
- “For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay” (Heb. 10:37).
- “Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! (James 5:3).
- “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:7–9).2
- “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” (I Peter 4:7).
- “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18).
- “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John” (Rev. 1:1).
- “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Rev. 1:3).
- “I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” (Rev. 3:11).
- “And [the angel] said to [John], ‘These words are faithful and true’; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place” (Rev. 22:6).
- “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev. 22:7).
- “And [the angel] said to [John], ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.’” (Rev. 22:10).
- “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” (Rev. 22:12).
- “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:20).
It’s is impossible to turn the above time indicators into a prolonged period of prophetic history.
The Camping fiasco is a great time to wipe the slate clean of all prophetic speculation, from Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth (1970) that predicted Jesus would “rapture” the church before 1988 to Mark Hitchcock’s The Late Great United States (2009).
Not only was the Camping story hammered in Christian media outlets but the secular media had a field day with it. Too bad popular representatives of the church missed another opportunity to set them straight. But they couldn’t. The majority of evangelicals are bound to an unstudied futurism that they parrot because this is what they’ve always been taught.
There are cultural and political implications to prophetic views. If enough people believe that the end is near and inevitable, they will dismiss this world and time and give culture and politics over to those who want to shape into a grotesque form. When the end does not come as predicted, those who fell for the predictions, will have to live under the new tyranny.
There’s a lot more on this subject. If you are interested in this topic, I suggest the following books:
- Is Jesus Coming Soon?
- Last Days Madness
- Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future
- 10 Prophecy Myths Exposed and Answered
- The Early Church and the End of the World
If you are interested in a video course on the topic, I suggest that you take a look at Basic Training for Understanding Bible Prophecy (DVD).
- This passage may be saying that “the Lord is near” in terms of His relationship to Christians. If this is its meaning, then it shows that the word “near” or “at hand” means proximity. And if it means proximity here, then it means proximity or closeness in other contexts. See Rev. 1:3; 22:10 [↩]
- “Near” is defined as “standing right at the door” not in the next state. [↩]