The Sad Teaching of Harold Camping

May 28th, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Heaven & Hell

When Jesus did not return, those individuals were embarrassed and humiliated.  Harold Camping today stands embarrassed and humiliated.  He was wrong!  How should we think about this?

  • First, exactly what did Camping teach?  He concluded from his study of Scripture that Jesus would return for His church about 6 pm on 21 May 2011 and take the righteous to heaven.  That event would then be followed by five months of fire, brimstone and plagues, with millions of people dying each day.  Finally on 21 October 2011, the world would end according to the details alluded to in the Book of Revelation—the lake of fire and the new heaven and the new earth.  How did he arrive at these specific dates?  In an interview with a USA Today reporter, he “opened his Bible to Genesis and said Noah loaded animals into the ark in 4990 BC, a number he said he arrived at years ago after looking at carbon dating, tree rings and other data.  Paging forward to 2 Peter, he read aloud, ‘one day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years is one day.’  Leafing back to Genesis, he said that the seven days Noah spent loading the ark was really 7,000 years.  He then added 7,000 to 4990 BC to arrive at 2010.  He added one more year, he said, because there is no year one in the Bible.  As for the exact date of 21 May, he pointed again to Genesis, which says the flood began on the ‘17th day of the second month.’  According to the Jewish calendar, which he believes God uses, that is 21 May.”  [In a book he published in the 1990s, he predicted Jesus would return in 1994.  He made a mistake in his calculations.]  Camping told New York magazine:  “God has given ‘sooo’ much information in the Bible about this, and so many proofs, and so many signs, that we know it is absolutely going to happen without any question at all.  There’s nothing in the Bible that God has ever prophesied—there’s many things that he prophesied would happen and they always happened—but there’s nothing in the Bible that holds a candle to the amount of information to this tremendous truth of the end of the world.  I would be absolutely in rebellion against God if I thought anything other than it is absolutely going to happen without any question.”  [Note the categorical terms!!]
  • Second, how did Camping’s teaching become so widespread?  Camping, who lives in Oakland, California, is the founder and leader of Family Radio.  Family Radio has financed the nationwide campaign to promote 21 May 2011 as the date of Christ’s return.  About 1,200 billboards across the nation have promoted this teaching and about 2,000 have done so across the world.  Neither Family Radio nor CBS Outdoor, which sold a large number of the billboards, would comment on the total cost of the campaign, but it is reasonable to assume it is in the millions of dollars.
  • Third, how should we think biblically about this prediction?  It is imperative to remember the clear teaching of Jesus:  “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7) “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”  Therefore, it is clear-cut from these two verses alone that Christians are forbidden to set dates about the return of Jesus.  There is simply no other conclusion to be reached.  Quite frankly, it is the heights of arrogance and presumptuousness to try and set such a date.  It is important, nonetheless, to remember that God did give prophetic Scripture.  In fact, major portions of Scripture are prophetic.  But God did not give us prophetic Scripture to set dates.  He makes it crystal clear why He has done so:  (1) To bring comfort and encouragement to those who are His children by faith in Jesus Christ (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Titus 2:13).  The truth of Christ’s return gives us hope and confidence.  (2) We are to be ready, because we do not know the hour of His return (see Matthew 24:32-44).  And (3) we are to be faithful (see Matthew 24:45 through 25:30).

Harold Camping has made a significant error in propagating something that is false and which has no biblical authority.  It is quite sad, for he is a man who has blessed countless Christians throughout his life though his radio stations.  What a sad way to end one’s life of service to the Lord.  Perhaps, God will use his false teaching to remind many that Jesus is returning, but that we are never to fall into the trap of pretending to know when that might be.

See Kimberly Winston in USA Today (23 March 2011); Heather Murphy in Slate (19 May 2011); and www.AlbertMohler.com (17 May 2011). PRINT PDF

Comments Closed

11 Comments to “The Sad Teaching of Harold Camping”

  1. Pearl says:

    Camping’s mistake is no suprise. Here is a link to a audio from a spiritual group which is getting a lot of attention right now. They explain how Christianity follows a false image of Jesus and is the false religion Jesus warned about. This recording is apparently causing a lot of controversy! http://www.merkaba.org/audio/sing144000.htm

    • gerry says:

      the link you shared is pure trash. The tone of the speakers voice is up and down what a quack.

  2. Debbie Pedersen says:

    Hello Dr. Eckman,

    This is the best commentary on Harold Camping that I have read. Many people made comments, including pastors, who did not really have all the facts on this individual and his ministry.
    Your last paragraph was so well said. I pray he will humble himself and stick to beautiful Christian music, keeping scripture read on the air, and the other Christian ministries that air on his station. Thank you for your insight.
    An Owl Class member:)

  3. Ronald Strout says:

    I agree very nice article on Harold Camping’s Fraud.I ask as a Christian myself,How can people-His Cult followers considered to be christians,Be so gulliable and so easily convinced and misled?I think Harold should Humble himself as a christian he claims to be.Humble himself to God,repent,ask Gods forgiveness and peoples forgiveness.Most important,Harold should be honest and honorable and more than willing to RETURN every penny he received from donations.Some of his followers gave their life savings.The right thing to do, Return the Scammed Money.The only Honest action left for Harold to do.As a christian,it saddens me

  4. Mary Ann Summerlin says:

    I will never understand how learned men or women will so publicly disobey the words of Christ. There is no excuse for this level of arrogance, though I will expend some compassion for this poor, arrogant man who will elevate and exhalt his understanding above that which is given by the Holy Scriptures.

  5. Gerard Haughey says:

    God sets examples. Harold Camping makes for a very reliable example. Why? Well many will say Harold Camping is a false prophet? I can’t say that he is or he is not. Harold for the most part preserved his humility in saying that anything he said was only by God’s grace and that nothing he knew or said came from him. Still, now in hindsight we all know Harold was wrong about his feelings. This is a very necessary example and I’ll share why I think so.

    As men we all, whether we know it consciously or not, look upon other men with eyes that judge one another. The first thing we do when any man rises up over others (Camping rose over other bible teachers of our day by professing Judgement Day was upon us and he also gave a date to the day) is we try to uncover something in their past to discredit them. This is very important to us because once we find something about a person from their past- something immoral or criminal or corrupt- we can then convince ourselves to pay no attention to that person. So, think about this- Harold indeed had a past- in 1994 Harold also made a similar claim based on bible prophecy that the Rapture could occur in that time- He was wrong then but what may have given him a pass was that he had a question mark on his claim back in ’94. This time around Harold stated with certainty that May 21st was Judgemend Day. Now we know Harold’s word can no longer be heeded. This is a very important example- Why?

    Well, how many other men can say that they have 70 years studying and teaching Christianity? Not too many for sure. How many men have lived a clean life, married to same woman for decades, lived modestly, never a criminal conviction or immoral act come to light? Not too many. So, was Harold Camping used as perhaps the most suitable man to be made an example by God?

    I wrote a few words here in this forum a little while back. I was saying that how and why would God glorify a man by doing a thing that man said God would do? I called it the ‘epitome of pride’ to give a day.

    I was always able to see that many of what Harold Camping preached was truth, but then you could see that he as a man had weaved some of his own ‘truths’ in with God’s truth- and this is what caused the impurity to my ear and what caused the speculation in my heart.

    All Praise and Glory to God. In His time only.

    Now we can all continue to know that no man knows God, He is far above us and our ways and our minds. Nonetheless I am not angry at Harold Camping- Harold loves Jesus and wants to be taken out of this evil world. I share this sentiment but I also know that such things are not of my doing but God’s. I will continue on in life, never knowing when Jesus will come- Always hoping He will be come and I will be Saved. Until that time I will try my best to be a Christian, Christ-like in transformation always.

    God Bless,

    Gerard

  6. Elder Frank Thomas says:

    The real sad part is Mr. Camping does not realize that book of Revelation was a first century with certain time statements. “At hand” “shortly” and “quickly” It contains what is now fulfilled prophecy.

    The day that no man can know occurred in the 1st century. See Mt. 24:34 “That generations”

  7. Arlie Rauch says:

    Dr. Eckman,

    Just read on the GU web site that you are retiring from the presidency. I suppose that has to happen now and then. I hope you will continue to publish your “Issues in Perspective.” They are always good and thought-provoking. On occasion I refer to them in the teaching I do.

    Recently our church library received a thorough upgrade, and many books that had not been used for a long time had to go. I rescued “The Story of Grace” written by Paul Kuhlmann in 1980. I have really enjoyed re-immersing myself in that history. It’s kind of like bringing up old family stories, since I was part of it from 1965-1969, not only as a student but also as a representative of the school in various traveling music groups. It is a testimony to the ‘grace’ and providence of God.

    The Lord bless you as you go on to another phase of life.

    Arlie Rauch
    Pastor at Community Bible Church
    Glendive, MT

  8. Dr. Eckman,

    Thank you for your service at Grace! We wish you continued blessing…

    Sharen and I live in Jacksonville, FL where one of the Family Radio stations is broadcast. Shortly after our arrival here in 2004, I listened while doing some small repairs around the house. During that broadcast, Harold Camping stated that all the churches are now apostate; that listeners should send their tithe to Family Radio! While I am sure the spirit of apostasy is widespread and growing, I find nothing in scripture to indicate that faithful local churches will be non-existent at the time of Christ’s return. Mr. Camping has apparently drifted far from the moorings of accountability that might have drawn him toward a more sensible position.

    Riding High (Dt. 32:13),
    C.T. Lloyd Spear
    Evangelist

  9. Rogelio Ambriz Martine says:

    just to say think about Jim Jones and the peoples templo.David Koresh do we need more,for an eye opener or how many people need to die just for not paying attencion and not studying the Bible Gracious Lord how more
    do we need to know what’s wrong May God Bless

  10. ajh says:

    The endless debate of word battles , will undermine trust. Where like in law, the items discussed are quite clear,We do well to keep to evidence, and not accept hearsay.