Apocalyptic claims are unbiblical

Harold Camping, a radio personality, is predicting the end of the world in May 2011. Daniels address Camping’s claims with biblical truth.

Forget the homework. Throw out your textbooks. No need for taking any more Bible classes or any other classes for that matter. It is time to read our Bibles, fast, pray and get as many people into the Kingdom as possible. Why? Because we have been given the word from radio personality and Bible teacher Harold Camping of Oakland that Jesus will return to rapture true believers on May 21, 2011. That’s right, brothers and sisters, we only have about six months left on earth, and then God will unleash his wrath on all the ungodly. Or will He?

Camping, 89, is the source of this teaching and president of Family Stations, Inc., also known as Family Radio, based in Oakland, Calif. Family Radio broadcasts Camping’s peculiar theology via AM/FM radio, shortwave, satellite and the Internet all over the world. He has no formal theological training (a clear red flag) and only has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Back in 1992, Camping argued in the book “1994?” that the evidence from the Bible indicated that Jesus would return in 1994. As we all know, this did not occur.

What’s interesting is that over the years there have been many false predictions about the return of Jesus described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. I remember well the prediction that Jesus would return in 1994. I recall reading that gospel tract and noting a gross error in Bible interpretation that was the basis of the 1994 dating. That gross error was mistaking the use of simile language in 2 Peter 3:8 as a way to calculate literal dates, something I pointed out back then in the newsletter I produced called, “The Christian Apologist.”

In 2 Peter 3:8, in the context of addressing why the Lord’s coming seems to be taking so long, Peter informs us that God is patient, and that the way He views time is different from how we do. Peter shows us that God views time differently by saying, “…with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

The use of the words “as” or “like” indicate a figure of speech called a simile. And a simile is defined as “a figure of speech in which two unlike things are explicitly compared.” The two unlike things are “a day” and “a thousand years.” So basically what Peter was saying is that since God is eternal and self-existent, a day and a thousand years are alike to Him. He was not saying that a day and a thousand years were to be calculated as if they were the same.

But the 1994 date-setters took this simile, literalized it, and created their false date based on bad hermeneutics. Sadly, people like Camping have not learned from the mistakes of the past. Camping also used bad hermeneutics to come up with his May 21, 2011 date.
His first mistake was finding a way to disregard what Jesus said in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows…” Edgar Whisenant, in his booklet “88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988,” made the same mistake, and then kept changing the date after the first prophesy failed.

Camping’s second mistake was to literalize the simile language in 2 Peter 3:8. How he came up with the specific date May 21, 2011 is very convoluted and complicated, but the gist of it is this: he took the arbitrary and inconclusive date for Noah’s flood (4990 BC), added to that the seven days Noah was warned before the flood in Genesis 7:4, but made them equal to seven thousand years using 2 Peter 3:8, and added that figure to 4990 BC and got the year 2011 AD.

This is a perfect example of why a sound theological education is so important. It will keep you from gross errors of interpretation like these. Camping’s teachings about the year 1994 influenced a man to commit suicide when his prediction did not pan out.

This is no trivial matter. The May 21, 2011 date is wrong because no distortion of the Bible can lead to truth. I suggest that Camping and his followers take Professor Shin’s hermeneutics and Bible study methods class. I am sure Biola would offer him a discount, because it is clear this is one class he desperately needs.

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