Friday, January 7, 2011

Is the World Ending on May 21, 2011?

Recently there's been a lot of hooplah about the supposed prediction by Harold Camping that the end of the world will be on May 21, 2011. The immediate passage many Christians may be thinking of is the words of the Christ to the disciples:
"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." [Matt 24:36; NASB]
Christ seems to make it clear that the day and hour of His return no one knows except the Father in heaven. Why, then, does Harold Camping seem to know?

Well, in his tract No Man Knows the Day or the Hour? (source), Harold Camping (or at least, the writer of the tract) seems to have an answer:
...we learn that during the church age there would be a great curiosity concerning the time of the end, but believers were not to be at all preoccupied with this question. They were to concentrate and focus all of their attention on the task of bringing the Gospel to the whole world.

Therefore, regardless of how brilliant or how learned a theologian or Bible student might have been, or how diligently they studied the Bible or faithfully served Christ, it was impossible to learn from the Bible the timetable for the end of the world. Anyone who claimed he knew the time of the end was always wrong.

Nevertheless, there is a very striking statement in the Bible. It is recorded in Ecclesiastes 8:5. There God declares:

Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerneth [better translation: will know] both time and judgment.

In the Bible a wise man is a true believer, to whom God has given a profound trust in the authority of the Bible. True believers have been in existence since the beginning of time. But the timeline of history as it is revealed in the Bible was never revealed to the hearts of the true believers....However, it was not until a very few years ago that the accurate knowledge of the entire timeline of history was revealed to true believers by God from the Bible. This timeline extends all the way to the end of tirne. During these past several years God has been revealing a great many truths, which have been completely hidden in the Bible until this time when we are so near the end of the world.
Alarm bells should be going off in our head about now. Any time someone speaks about "revealing a great many truths," especially those which have been "completely hidden in the Bible until this time," it is usually in the spirit of false prophecy.

In fact, before we continue, something important must be noted: Harold Camping has already been shown to be a false prophet. He had before predicted the world would end somewhere between September 15-17 in 1994 (source). At another recorded time, he pinpointed it to be September 6, 1994 (source). Guess what didn't happen that September?

Scripture is very clear about false prophecies:
"When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him." [Deuteronomy 18:22]
For the sake of discussion, however, let's continue to review Camping's claims about 2011, since many people may be curious about the claims made by him and his followers.

Perhaps the biggest shock to most learned Christians at this point is the completely false application of Ecclesiastes 8:5. Camping interprets this as meaning that a true believer will be made known about the end times. Is this really what the writer of Ecclesiastes is talking about? Let's review the context quickly.
I say, "Keep the command of the king because of the oath before God. Do not be in a hurry to leave him. Do not join in an evil matter, for he will do whatever he pleases." Since the word of the king is authoritative, who will say to him, "What are you doing?" He who keeps a royal command experiences no trouble, for a wise heart knows the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every delight, though a man's trouble is heavy upon him. [Ecclesiastes 8:2-6]
Is the author of Ecclesiastes saying that "true believers" will come to know the hour and day of the end times? Not at all. The point the writer was trying to make was that a wise man (not a "true believer," but simply someone with a deeper sense of tact) knows how to handle various situations. One cannot possibly come to another conclusion unless one springs verse 5 from its immediate context and invents new meanings to its words...something Harold Camping has unfortunately done and, in later interviews and discussions, has done over and over again.

Some nights ago, I was on Skype with a friend, and brought up this very subject. Without saying anything beforehand, I asked him to turn to Ecclesiastes chapter eight, then asked him (since he had the KJV, which Camping also uses) to read aloud verse five. Even he, without any teaching from either side and simply going to the text itself, recognized that Camping was being both erroneous and eisegetical with this verse.

In any case, I'd like to point out something here with the use of Ecclesiastes 8:5: we have completely jumped from our train of thought. What do I mean? We had earlier established that Christ had warned His disciples that no one knows the day or the hour, not even Him. Christ made it abundantly clear that the only one to know when the end time would be was the Father alone. What is Harold Camping now doing? He has jumped from that text, and is now declaring, "Oh! Well, actually, according to this verse in Ecclesiastes, any true believer knows the day and the hour!" How did we jump from "the Father alone" to "any true believer"? Those are two contradicting points.

This is something that happens all too often when a person, faced with a scripture or verse that contradicts their theology, becomes guilty of a non sequitor in an effort to distract from the chain of thought. The greatest fault in this is that, in jumping to another verse, the person refuses to deal with the interpretation of another. This is similar to people who don't like the reading of Romans 3:10-11 and so will jump to another verse to try to prove their point, never seeming to realize that in doing so they are contradicting both the apostle Paul and the Psalmist. With Camping we have something similar, though given that one comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and one comes from previously proven false prophet Harold Camping, I think I know which one to place my money on.

From here, Camping moves on to justification that such revelation would take place in the end times.
In the book of Daniel God has much to say about end-time events. Much of this was understood by Daniel, and because it was such awful information, great agony came upon Daniel. We read for example in Daniel 8:27:

And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king's business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.

But then God told Daniel in Daniel 12:4 and 9:

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. And He said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

In other words, God is telling us that there is important information concerning the time of the end that has been recorded in the Bible ("the book") but is not to be revealed by God until the world is near its end.
Note, first off, the immediate assumption: that the book spoken of in Daniel was the Bible. Was this possible? Absolutely not. For one, the Bible had not yet been completed, whereas the book which Daniel held was completed, and in fact was ordered to be sealed until the end times. The book referred to by Daniel is, in fact, merely the book of written prophecies which Daniel had seen. The statement made "seal the book" was one made by prophets as a statement of judgment against people who did not understand (Isa 29:11), and was intended for a revelation that would not come to pass until much later. Remember that, in Revelation, John is told not to seal up his book of prophesy (Rev 22:10) by contrast.

Also note that the book discussed had been written by Daniel...did Daniel write the entire Bible? So even Matthew through Revelation and all that we know of as the New Testament was written by a prophet before any of those events even came to past? These questions, along with the previously stated facts, are what I mean by the fact that this book simply cannot be the Bible. That is simply a bold assumption read into the text.

Camping goes on to write:
In Revelation 22:18-19 we read:

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book

These verses absolutely assure us that after the Bible was completed about 95 A.D. no other words could ever be added to the Bible. Therefore, whatever end-time information had been given to Daniel, but was not to be understood until the time of the end, had to have been included in the Bible before the Bible was completed. However, God wrote it in such a way that it could not be understood until the world was almost at its end. Remember, understanding comes only from the Lord Jesus Christ, as we read in Luke 24:45: "Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures." This explains why the Bible is written in such complex and difficult-to-understand language.
Of course, we see that again Camping and his followers commit the same erroneous application of any use of the word "book" as meaning the Bible. Yet what does John himself record at the end of Revelation? "If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy." Much like Daniel was only referring to his book of prophecy, John is only referring to his book of prophecy.

Note also the dangerous application of Luke 24:45. When Christ opened the eyes of the disciples, why was this? So that they may understand that He was seen in the Old Testament (see Luke 24:44-47 for greater context). This, however, was personally given by Christ, and it was given to the apostles so that they may preach Christ crucified from Holy Writ. What application is being made here? That Camping is receiving this teaching directly from Christ, and that by his teaching the scripture is made more clear. Any time a man claims to speak directly from Christ, especially in regards to prophecy which only he can substantiate, we must be wary.

The strange statement at the end, which says the Bible was "written in such complex and difficult-to-understand language" seems to demand a special teaching authority, something often done in cults. Of course, the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. " (2 Tim 3:16-17). He likewise wrote to Timothy: "from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 3:15). That some of the Bible may be difficult for the laymen (in particular the prophetic passages) is true; however, that all of the Bible is written in "complex" and "difficult-to-understand" language is something that even scripture itself says is untrue. Any time a person claims scripture is so difficult that an outside authority must be relied on in toto, it is usually the first sign of a false teaching.

In the next section, after a lengthy quotation of Revelation 5:1-9, Camping writes:
These verses teach that there is a book that had been sealed and that was to be opened by Christ, Himself. The only book that can be in view is the book that the Bible describes in Daniel 12.
Note, again, an immediate assumption made without explanation of why the conclusion should be drawn. Nowhere in Revelation is this tie-in to Daniel's book made, nor is the book (often translated as "scroll") seen in Revelation 5:1 in any way connected to Daniel's book. In fact, if we wish to compare it with Old Testament events, there's many more similarities to the scroll seen by Ezekiel (see Eze 2:9-10) than the book written by Daniel. Yet the plain facts from scripture are that the scroll seen in Revelation 5 is specific to these events in Revelation: the seven scrolls represent the seven time periods which the breaking of each scroll will cause, none of which are recorded of in Daniel's prophecy.

Note also the contradictory thinking. We had established that the book in Daniel was supposedly the Bible, yet now we are claiming that the book in Revelation 5 is the book written by God therefore holding the Bible? Was the Bible given seven seals, which no one could open until the end times? Why, then, do so many people have Bibles? Why were large chunks of the Bible (namely the Old Testament) so readily available during the earthly ministry of Christ? Camping tells us, "The only book that can be in view is the book that the Bible describes in Daniel 12"...Yet wasn't that book in Daniel 12 the Bible? So the Bible is saying it came along in Daniel 12 but can't be opened except by Christ itself, yet we're reading that it can't be opened even though we have to open a Bible to read that? I hope people can understand why this logic is so astoundingly circular. I also recognize many will argue that the "seals" are supposed to be "that which figuratively seals someone from true understanding," but that is not the context given in Revelation 5.

At this point, I won't touch on much after section of the tract because all coherency and logic falls apart. The dates and numerology stray far, far from what scripture says and how Christians should read scripture. Should we be worried that the world will end on May 21, 2011? If it didn't happen around September of 1994, and scripture says not to worry about men who prophesy falsely, then chances are we have nothing to worry about.

Here I'd like to reiterate something that many others have: the danger here is not whether or not Christ will return on May 21, 2011...the danger here is what damage this will do for many out there in the world. How many people who become involved in this will fall away from the faith when nothing occurs? How many more will see this as what "real Christianity" is, and use it as a strawman to mock all Christians? How much damage will this do to the fact that someday Christ will return, and that we should all be living with willing readiness for whenever that day may be?

Let us all take this as an example of why discernment of the scriptures is so important, and why the most important factor in a Christian's life is not when Christ will return, but would we be ready if He should return today? God bless.


EDIT - FEBRUARY 1, 2011: A Harold Camping supporter attempted to post a response to this, but due to the nature of the email I haven't allowed it to go through. What do I mean by "nature"? Well, let me post some excerpts:
...even if you doubt the bible look at the signs of the times moron... d---head let me tell you what that means you ignorant a-- whole in the day of noah just in case u didnt pass 5th grade because everybody knows the noah story, god told noah that he was going to detroy the world in 7 days noah told everybody but no body listen they did exacly what your duma-- is doing ingoring it eating and drinking acting like everything is normal... before you say the world not ending do your research and try not to look like a jacka-- because you do look pretty stupid.

...every thing thats in the bible is true and for d--- head a-- morons to say sum s--- like this p--- me off read your bible and prey for understanding them mabe you will be caous of what you say d--- head...
I'm especially amused that I'm told to read the Bible and listen to the words of God, then in the same breadth I'm called a chain of expletives. An immediate verse of scripture comes to mind, namely the lament of the apostle James with: "from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way" (James 3:10).

If this person wishes to have dialogue on this blog, I might give a word of advice: I do not allow name-calling or curse words. We are all adults here, and we should interact as adults. Likewise, if we are going to talk about the word of God, we should do it with respect for the subject matter. In the meantime, I ask my readers to pray for this individual, that his eyes might be opened to the deceit he has apparently supported with great fanaticism.