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Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:

for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand, Joel 2:1.

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Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Where has Harold Camping gone wrong?

The substance of a sermon preached in Newtownabbey FPC and available on the Church's Sermonaudio page

According to Harold Camping the Secret Rapture was supposed to take place on Saturday 21st May at 6 pm across the world.

Harold Camping for those who don't know of him by now is the President of Family Radio. This is a California based radio station group that has more than 150 outlets in the United States.

Camping is now known virtually the world over as the man who predicted that 'Judgment Day', as he described it, would take place on 21st May 2011. He had been announcing for sometime that Jesus Christ would then return to this world, that the righteous would be raptured up to heaven. He estimated that around 200 million people would be raptured, or about 3% of the world's population. There would subsequently follow five months of fire, brimstone and plagues, with millions of people dying each day. This would culminate five months later, on 21st Oct 2011, with the end of the world.

Camping arrived at this date by applying numerology to his interpretations of the Bible. Ten of thousands, and most likely hundreds of thousands, of US dollars where spent on a countrywide advertising campaign to warn of this Judgment Day. Followers sold their homes and used their money to spread the word. People had their vehicles liveried with this message to warn the masses.

However, 21st May has come and gone and there has been no evident rapture and no subsequent plagues etc falling upon the world. The explanation given as to why we did not see it happening is really very clear according to Camping. The coming of Christ was spiritual and that is why no one else has seen it. Camping has said: We didn't see any difference but God brought Judgment Day to bear upon the whole world. The whole world is under Judgment Day and it will continue right up until Oct. 21, 2011 and by that time the whole world will be destroyed.

So, in other words, even though Harold Camping was evidently so wrong, he was actually still right. We just don't see it, because.... well you and I just aren't Harold Camping.

However, it is worthwhile to ask: where has Harold Camping gone wrong?

Harold Camping displays the marks of the false teacher. 
In Matthew 24 the Lord Jesus warned about the likes of Harold Camping. He told the disciples to take heed that they be not deceived, v4; they were further warned against believing anyone who came along saying that Christ had come, v23-27. The Saviour warned that many antichrists and many false prophets would arise, some with great signs and wonders and would seek to deceive the very elect.

The disciples, and by extension you and I, are exhorted not to believe these people when they come along saying that Christ is secretly coming or has secretly come. Believe it not, v26 are the emphatic words of Scripture.

Camping may indeed claim superior revelation and knowledge than even the Apostles had. However, the Word of God marks Harold Camping out as a false prophet. It is worthwhile remembering what this man believes:
1. He previously proclaimed the Lord's return would be in 1994!
2. He has taught that no one was saved between 1988 and 1994!
3. He has taught that the church age ended in 1994! We are in the post-church age.
4. He believes that the Holy Spirit is no longer working in the church!
5. He teaches that every church in the world is actually apostate except his!

Harold Camping is not the first nor the last to engage in this speculation. There were those in the 1st century who said the same. This is why Paul had to write the second letter to the Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians 2:1,2. There were believers in this Church who had stopped working because they believed the coming of the Lord was at hand, 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12. Paul had to warn them and exhort them to return to their work.

No man knows the day or the hour of Christ's coming, Matthew 24:36. The Scriptures specifically state that no man, nor the angels, know the day of Christ's coming. You would think that this would be sufficient to guard against being duped by the likes of Harold Camping. Sadly, not for some people. When you start following the interpretations of men then you end up believing falsehood.

It is possible to discern the season but not the day or the hour, Matthew 24:32,33.

Certain events are to precede the coming of Christ. 
In considering these things we notice that both the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul speak of certain events which must precede the coming of Jesus Christ. They emphasise the point that the Lord is not coming back at any moment. He is not coming back today or tomorrow or next week or even next year. There are a whole series of events yet to take place prior to that coming which will take years to develop and work out.

Note what the Saviour teaches about His coming:
[1] His coming will be visible and seen by all, Matthew 24:27. Secret, unknown or spiritual comings, as Harold Camping suggests, to get off the hook, are ruled out by the Saviour. He likens His coming to the lightning that comes out of the east and is seen in the west. In other words every one will see His coming. It will be so noticeable. It will not happen unbeknown to people. It will not be some spiritual coming where people can easily deny it has happened. It will be visible to all.

[2] Signs in three specific areas will take place prior to Christ's coming. The Saviour was asked in Matthew 24:3 what were the signs of His coming. The subsequent verses signify three areas to look out for:
1. The general signs of the age, v4-14. None of these on their own, or a group of them, signal the end. They are the general features of the age. They are general physical disturbances, persecutions, false prophets, backsliding, & the spread of the gospel.

2. The signs in and around Jerusalem, v15-28. As Christ's return approaches there will be an idol in the holy place in Jerusalem, great tribulation, specific false sightings of Christ, the gathering of armies to Jerusalem.

3. The signs in the heavens, v29-31. The sun and moon will be darkened, the stars falling out of their place etc. These specific events will have all the world will be looking upwards and then Christ shall appear.

Note what Paul taught about Christ's coming:
[1] A falling away first, 2 Thessalonians 2:3. A great apostasy will take place.

[2] The man of sin will be revealed, v3,4. The final Antichrist will appear. We are warned that there will be many antichrists. The final one will be distinguishable because he will sit in the Temple of God announcing himself to be God.

The Temple of God is either the physical Temple in Jerusalem or the professing body of believers. As antichrist can't set himself up within the body of Christ this must therefore refer to the physical Temple at Jerusalem. For this reason I don't think the Pope/Papacy as the final antichrist. These verses go too far for the papal antichrist to meet this description. The Pope exalts himself to be equal with God of that there is no doubt, but not above God. For all his blasphemies the Pope/Papacy doesn't claim that he alone is God. The final antichrist must certainly will.

These are specific things which must take place before the coming of Christ. Harold Camping no matter what system of numerology he used could never have been right.

There is no secret rapture taught in the Bible
This whole controversy has arisen because Harold Camping claims the Bible teaches a secret rapture. The word 'rapture' means 'to catch up' and there certainly will be a catching up of believers to meet the Lord in the air. But people like Harold Camping believe that there will be a 'secret' rapture before or during the Great Tribulation when the Lord will catch away His people from the earth and the earth will continue on its course. Camping believed it would do for another five months until 21st October.

The Bible does not teach a secret rapture of the saints. There are three proof texts that are often used by those who believe in the rapture:

[1] 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. It is hard to envisage a secret rapture from these verses. As one commentator remarked you couldn't get a noisier verse in all the Bible.

These verses argue against a secret rapture more than for a secret rapture. The words 'to meet' are used in the New Testament for those who go out to meet someone and then turn back and accompany the person they have gone out to meet, cf. Matt 25:1,6; Acts 18:15,16. This usage suggests that those who go up to meet the Lord will accompany Him back down to the earth. This argues against a secret rapture and not for one.

[2] 1 Corinthians 15:51,52 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For these verses to teach the secret rapture you have to put this last trump before the seven trumpets that are recorded as sounding in the Book of the Revelation, ch 8-10. Therefore this trumpet of which Paul speaks is no longer the last trump. Even those who believe in the rapture have to admit this and seek to argue that this last trumpet has nothing to do with those in Revelation. This is just plain ludicrous!

[3] Matthew 24:40,41 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. The question to ask here is who exactly is taken? cf v38-40. Who was taken away in the days of Noah? It was the ungodly. So shall also the coming of the Son of man be, v39. These verses are not arguing for a secret rapture they are arguing against one and most emphatically so!

There is no secret rapture taught in the Bible. The saints of God will be on the earth until the Lord returns openly to the earth. There are not two parts or stages to Christ's second coming. Harold Camping and anyone else who believes this argue in the face of Scripture teaching.

If Harold Camping held fast to the Bible rather than his own foolish ideas he wouldn't be in the position where he is today of being a laughing stock. 

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