I find myself a bit disappointed on this Monday, two days after the supposed end of the world prophecy date as forecasted by Harold Camping. My disappointment isn’t based on believing that what Camping said would happen — that the end of the world would start at 6 p.m. local time on May 21, 2011, plunging the planet into a five month period of utter devastation — rather, that very few Christian leaders are calling Camping what he really is: a false prophet and a liar.
For the few people who have known me for many years, they remember when I was caught up in a cult at the age of 18. That group, which I won’t mention here, instructed its followers from the Bible, but they taught an exclusivity where only their way was right and everyone else was wrong. Supposedly, the leader of this sect had a certain “Bible understanding” no one else had, claiming to be the prophet Elijah. I thank God I got out after 9 months, but the damage was already done — I stayed away from God for 7 and one-half years.
As your laughter dies down consider this: there are many people who believe that the spirit of Elijah will return before the Lord’s return. Just “google” this information and you’ll find a wealth of claims and information regarding this thinking. Reference Malachi 4:5-6 to see how people base their beliefs. I’m not disputing the scripture — just someone’s interpretation of it.
I know personally how damaging it can be for people to base their spiritual foundation on the pronouncements of a man and not on the word of God. This is, of course, the wrong way to live our lives, but it is a problem for millions of people around the world who say they believe in Jesus, but put their trust in the words of a man, a church, a movement or something else besides Christ alone. If you think that Camping is harmless, then you’re not aware of the Jonestown settlement in Guyana, founded by Jim Jones, a cult leader who convinced his followers to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid on Nov. 18, 1978. Some 918 Americans died there, obediently following Jones’ calls to resist what he believed would be an eventual invasion from the United States.1 If just one person harms himself as a result of Camping’s botched prediction, that person’s blood will be upon Camping’s head. (see Mark 9:42)
Over the years, we’ve heard of other cultists and the stories they’ve contrived to rope in their followers. In 1988, Edgar C. Whisenant wrote, “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could be in 1988.” I recall that there were quite a few people who were thinking that 1988 was the year the church would be removed from the earth, thinking that Jesus would come back one generation or 40 years after the restoration of Israel. When Whisenant’s prediction didn’t come true in September 1988, he wrote a sequel — “The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989,” according to the Christian Research Institute.2 He followed up with additional predictions in the 1990s, but all that ended in 2001 when he personally exited this life to stand before the Lord.
Harold Camping is a liar and we need not mince words when we describe this man and his Family Radio ministry. I have no idea how countless numbers of his devotees are handling life right now, but I’m certain it cannot be easy for them. My prayer is that their eyes would be opened and instead of being bitter, people would put their trust in Jesus and move away from this man. It won’t be an easy transition for many who literally gave up jobs, homes and all that they own to await the Lord’s return.
Personally, if the federal government arrested Harold Camping for fraud, I wouldn’t be upset that his “religious liberties” were being violated. The harm he has done with his latest false pronouncements (he had a similar prophecy in 1994), should outweigh his personal comfort. Camping, like every teacher of the word of God will be held accountable. Better to face the consequences now and make a heart-felt change, then to stand before God when it is too late to repent.
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:36)
Photo: Bjorn de Leeuw