Commentary – The End Is Near . . . ?

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So I hear the end of the world is near. In fact, according to Reverend Harold Camping and his roadside billboards, May 21st is the beginning of THE END, the day of the Christian Rapture and the prelude to the final apocalyptic destruction of the Earth on October 21st, 2011. With only a month or so to go, you might like to hear the specifics. Forewarned is forearmed; look before you leap; better safe than sorry; whatever.

How is the Rapture to go down? A massive earthquake will strike this May 21st in New Zealand at exactly 6:00pm. The earthquake will slowly travel around the earth, shaking every place at 6pm local time. This earthquake will shake open all the graves, releasing dearly departed Christians who will join living believers in their flight to meet Jesus Christ in the sky and travel to Heaven for their eternal reward. All those left behind will live through five months of God’s punishment, culminating in complete destruction this coming October.

While most Christians agree that ‘no man knows the day nor the hour’ of the rapture or apocalypse, how is it that Mr. Camping has uncovered a specific date and time? It is actually very simple. First, using the biblical genealogies, and taking into account certain gaps that only Mr. Camping has discovered through his vigorous scholarship, we find that Noah’s flood took place on May 21st, 4990 BC. In Genesis we read that Noah spent seven days on the Ark before the flood came that destroyed the world. In the book of Peter we read that to God a day is as a thousand years, and Jesus preached that the end times would be like the days of Noah. Putting all the pieces of this prophetic puzzle together, Camping claims to have ‘absolute proof’ that the Rapture must occur exactly seven thousand years after Noah’s flood. Unfortunately for us, the big day comes this May. Isn’t it simple?

Reverend Camping’s approach to interpreting the Bible is akin to a ‘connect the dots’ game on the back of a kid’s meal menu. However, instead of following the numbered dots and completing the intended picture, Camping connects his dots in any order he chooses. In this ‘connect the verse’ game, he links a verse in Genesis to a verse in Matthew to a verse in Peter to a verse in Revelation and concludes that Jesus will return next month. Camping claims that the Bible is filled with hidden spiritual messages which can only be discovered by connecting the correct verses together. The obvious problem is that this allows one to force the Bible to say anything.

If you are concerned that Mr. Camping’s prediction may prove true, rest easy in the fact that he has been wrong before. His ‘connect the verse’ scholarship previously led him to predict that Jesus would come in 1994. When Jesus did not return on time, Camping discovered his error and moved the date forward to 2011. In addition, over the years he has uncovered the biblical ‘truths’ that the doctrine of the Trinity is false, the Lake of Fire is temporary, all churches are ruled by Satan, and the only true believers are those who believe his version of the Bible. Yes, the only people being saved on May 21st are those who believe in Camping’s version of THE END. The rest of us carry the ‘Mark of the Beast’ (namely, membership in a Christian Church) and are eternally damned.

Perhaps you are like me, both fascinated and grieved over Harold Camping’s teachings. It is indeed fascinating to see the creation of a modern-day apocalyptic cult. Camping has followed the cult-leader playbook page for page. When his coming May prediction is proven wrong, he will have a couple options to continue his ministry. First, he can move back the date. Unfortunately 2012 has already been taken by the Mayans. Maybe a later date would be better anyway, one far enough in the future that he can expect to have died before THE END fails to come again (pun intended). Second, Camping might ‘go Waco’ on May 22nd, warning that the apocalypse is under way, and encouraging his followers to head for the hills. In either case, the tens of thousands of people dutifully following his teachings will be sorely disappointed.

The tragic results of Camping’s failed predictions will be clearly seen in the spiritual harm done to his followers. With these hurting souls in mind, I have contacted Reverend Camping and made a personal offer. I will take over ownership of his ministry on May 22nd of this year. If the Rapture has occurred as predicted, I will continue broadcasting his teachings on all 125 of his radio stations until the FINAL END on October 21st. His ministry will go on without him, preaching God’s judgment faithfully. If, however, the rapture does not occur, I will use his radio stations to minister to his hurting followers, and then liquidate the ministry assets and donate the proceeds to legitimate Christian ministries.

Unfortunately, like every effective cult leader, he refuses to entertain any possibility that his predictions are wrong. He refuses to consider any plans past May 21st, and so will give me no response to my sincere offer. We can only hope that his followers react to their coming disappointment by turning their backs on Camping rather than turning their backs on God. As for me, I will be contacting Harold Camping again on May 22nd. My sincere offer still stands.

David Duncombe is a teacher of High-School biblical studies at Parkway Christian Academy in Roanoke.