You might not know or remember the name Harold Camping but you probably are familiar with his work. He was the man who had convinced many of his followers that the end of the world was coming in May 2011. When this didn’t come about as predicted, rather than learn his lesson he stated that he misinterpreted what the rapture was but still called for the end of the world in October of 2011. This was undoubtedly little comfort for his followers who had sold their homes and toured around in RV’s touting the end of the world. It probably also didn’t make the people happy who had given his ministry $80 million over a five year span.
Harold Camping died at the age of 92 on December 15, 2013. I don’t wish to speak ill of the dead but I must question whether Camping’s contributions to Christianity were undone by the embarrassment that he caused. I never followed Camping’s teachings and even if I did, only God can judge the heart of a man. I truly hope that he was a genuine Christian who was just misguided in a particular belief and not a man who led many astray under the guise of Christianity.
I get very frustrated when Christian leaders cause an embarrassment to Christianity. I’m not talking about getting caught in affairs and scandals, those are bad obviously but that is different than what I’m talking about. I get mad when Christian leaders claim to speak for God when it doesn’t appear as if God has spoken. We have lots of revelation from the Lord, it’s called the Bible. What the Bible declares to be sin, we should boldly proclaim to be sin. But too many leaders take things a step further and declare things that the Bible does not say.
God does punish sin but He doesn’t always bring disaster upon cities or nations because of their sins. Unless God has spoken directly to an individual to proclaim this as truth, they should parse their words. Boldly speak the truth about sin but don’t make sweeping proclamations about what God is doing in response to that sin. God will judge sin, it just might not be here on earth.
Likewise, we know that one day “the end” is coming. I can definitively say that we are one day closer today than we were the day before. Beyond that, we simply don’t know. Jesus gave us signs of the end and we do see them in the world today. However, every generation has looked around them and has seen those signs. And perhaps this is the point – Jesus could return at any moment because the signs have always been there and always will be.
Of further embarrassment on the end of the world front though, Jesus said that no one knew the day or hour of His return – not even Him! There is no secret Bible code that Jesus couldn’t figure out but math whizzes today can crack. In short, I can’t think of any way to say it other than the fact that people who want to declare they know more than Jesus that they reek of arrogance and ignorance.
Unfortunately Christians sometimes adopt an “end justifies the means” mentality that does more harm than good. In an effort to prevent sin, broad proclamations about judgment are made which may make Biblical sense but are not Biblically supported because frankly the Bible just doesn’t tell us that a hurricane today is indisputably the judgment of God for a particular sin. It could be, but not every disaster is the judgment of God. Jesus made that clear when He discussed the tower of Siloam killing 18 people in Luke 13:4.
Perhaps Camping’s great fault was that he was overzealous to warn people about the judgment that awaits unrepentant sinners. I can’t claim to know what his true motivations were. If this were it, he could be excused for wanting to get the gospel out. But I will never excuse the methods that involve misinterpreted scripture, no matter what the intended result was.
In the end Harold Camping went to meet his maker about 2 1/2 years later than he expected. I can only hope that the word he receives from the Lord is a “well done” to a well intentioned but misguided man and not a “depart from me, I never knew you.”