Another fine mess!
Most people learn from their mistakes, but US preacher Harold Camping just kept making the same errors.
‘We have three months left until Judgement Day, which will happen on 21 October this year — but don’t change any plans, just in case’. This was the ironically desperate message from 89-year-old preacher Harold Camping when his predicted rapture on 21 May 2011 predictably failed to occur.
After spending days in hiding, the Californian founder of Family Ministries, Inc, and pioneer of Family Radio station (1958) said he had made a mistake, not over the date but over the meaning.
He said that it had been a ‘spiritual judgement’ after all and the real rapture will happen this October. What’s worse is that he made the same error in 1994! When that deadline passed, he told people he had made a miscalculation, still asserting, ‘You can know’ the time of the rapture.
This doomsday prophet might have been laughed out of court, except that such false prophecies are damaging. They are damaging to gospel preaching, based as it is on ‘the evidence of things not seen’ (Hebrews 11:1).
When Camping, and others like him, are widely shown to be so misled, the message that people must repent and be saved from a lost eternity falls on deafened ears. Mockery increases, and new and confused Christians find it hard to square their beliefs with such unwarranted predictions; Christian apologists have to go into overdrive to defend the faith in the public arena.
Camping’s words were especially damaging to his followers, some of whom spent their life savings promoting his message.
According to reports, one follower, Robert Fitzpatrick, 60, said he spent more than $140,000 spreading the word. His disciples gave him money, time and energy; what more could he demand?
The web site, Jesusissavior.com, reveals further flaws in his teaching, including the assertion that nobody was saved between 1988 and 1994 and that every church in the world is apostate.
A blog from Olive Tree Ministries asked the pertinent question: will this ship of fools sink? Sadly it seems so, but how many people will drown with it? We need to pray for them all.
Unquestionably, Harold Camping has been deluded in thinking he knows better than the Son of God. Jesus said, ‘But of that day and that hour, no one knows, not even the Son, but only the Father’ (Mark 13:32).
Christians will need to react with grace and good humour to unbelievers who use these prophetic disasters as sticks to beat us with. We should know what the Scriptures really do say.
The Holy Spirit will counsel us as we read difficult passages, but let us humbly accept that there are some mysteries known only to God, and praise God for what he has revealed through Jesus Christ.