Harold Camping made national news this spring with his prediction that the Lord would return on May 21, 2011. He guaranteed the date, as “his facts” came straight from the Bible. The prediction gained notoriety because of a world-wide radio network, a well-financed campaign by Camping’s network and an unknown number of devoted believers. There were also thousands more that were not totally convinced, but thought his arguments made sense. The internet then exploded with self-proclaimed Bible teachers who came up with the same numbers as Camping. Finally, a slow news cycle gave Camping a ton of world-wide publicity during the final week before Camping’s alleged rapture.
A lot has happened since May 21, 2011. The news media wanted to know what Harold Camping had to say about his failed prediction. From all accounts he was genuinely perplexed and disappointed that he was wrong. Wrong? False teachers rarely admit to being wrong. Two days later Harold Camping explained to the world that he had not been wrong. The Lord had returned, but it was a spiritual return. The world was not impressed, the media left, and the story died. Less than two weeks later Mr. Camping suffered a serious stroke, from which he is still recovering. The “spiritual return” card has been played in the face of false predictions many times before, and generally does not work, unless your name is Charles Taze Russell.
Family Radio continues on – in a very low key format. Dig deep enough into their website and you will see they still say the world will end on October 21, but they don’t seem very excited about it, and no one seems to be paying attention this time. They also proclaim that the day of salvation is past, and no one can be saved between May 21 and October 21. Because of that, they have stopped preaching the gospel on their stations. Of course, Harold Camping is also unable to host his nightly talk show, due to health constraints. They now simply play music, with an occasional Bible study “to encourage believers” until the final end comes. They are just marking time and have no desire for evangelistic efforts, or even to largely publicize the final end of the world on October 21, since no one can be saved anymore.
Although Family Radio proclaims salvation is no longer possible, in true hyper-calvinistic fashion, they spin this one too. There are people who are saved and simply do not know it. These people don’t realize that they have come to Christ (apparently without faith). So while it may seem there are conversions during this time frame, these are just realizations of what had already occurred prior to May 21. Family Radio proclaims that the Holy Spirit is no longer at work in bringing men and women to Christ.
The moral of the story is apparent. Error begets error and error always grows. Harold Camping and Family Radio had a good beginning. But as the years went on, smaller errors became larger ones. Slowly but inevitably, Camping moved outside the realm of orthodoxy and into the realm of those who despise the church of Jesus Christ. Along with him, he took thousands of others. I have been acquainted with many Family Radio devotees in my thirty years of ministry. Thankfully, many left his teachings long ago. Others left good churches and followed Camping.
I suspect their spiritual journey has not been a good one. Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. Harold Camping publically despises the church and will answer to the Lord for it. If that seems harsh, let us remember the Biblical admonition of James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (ESV).Steve Marquedant Sovereign Grace Reformed Baptist Church Ontario, California www.sgbc-ontario.us