Harold Camping predicted that the Rapture will occur, with certainty, on May 21, 2011. Well, it’s May 22, 2011, and we’re all still here. Why? Because Mr. Camping ignored Scripture to get where he did.
Chief among texts ignored by Mr. Camping was Matthew 24:36-44:
But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
In other words, we simply don’t know when the Judgment is coming. But, we can be assured in the words of Jesus that he will return. Therefore, we should stay vigilant and live as though it could happen at any time.
But this gets better and better. Mr. Camping arrived at the date using numerology, which means he ignored the texts condemning sorcery, and Deuteronomy 4:19:
And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.
Since Mr. Camping has ignored or rationalized so many Scriptures, then one more shouldn’t be a problem for him. This next one is a doozy. He now has to explain to us why, in light of Deuteronomy 18:20-22, that anyone should remain his follower:
“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, orwho speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” And if you say in your heart, “How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?”— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
Camping predicted the date of the Rapture, said it was a certainty, and it didn’t come to pass. Therefore, he has met the biblical definition of a false prophet, and we need not pay him any mind. Why should anyone continue listening to him? I await his reply.
Matthew 24 is called the Olivet Discourse. It is Jesus’ own discussion of eschatology and is often the center of criticism. In this sermon, Jesus makes the single most controversial prediction of his earthly ministry: he predicts the end of the age and says that it will occur within the lifetime of his hearers.
Obviously, we’re still here so many contend that this prediction didn’t come true. Faced with that dilemma, the leading prophecy experts (Tim LaHaye, Thomas Ice, and others) say that “generation” doesn’t refer to Jesus’ hearers at all but some far distant generation.
I read LaHaye’s book Are We Living in the End Times? (Tyndale House Publishers, 2000) many moons ago. I didn’t know anything about prophecy and only a tiny bit about hermeneutics. If I knew then what I know now, I would have realized just how poorly LaHaye’s arguments are constructed. Let’s focus just on the issue at hand: did Jesus predict that the hearers of his prophecy in Matthew 24 would see the fulfillment?
LaHaye answers that with an emphatic no. Through some hideously complicated eisegesis, LaHaye argues that “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 isn’t the hearers of Jesus’ message, but the generation alive when Israel is reformed as a nation. That happened in 1948. A biblical generation is around 30 years. Obviously, 1978 also came and went and LaHaye recognizes and addresses that problem. He says that “generation” refers to the length of the generation at the time in history when Israel reforms. People are living a lot longer nowadays and therefore 50 to 100 years from 1948 is the more likely timeframe.
Standard biblical hermeneutics teaches that the first consideration in understanding a passage is the audience to whom it is directed. Ask, “How would this audience have interpreted Jesus’ words?” And with that in mind, there is no other conclusion that you can possibly come to: Jesus meant that his hearers would see the fulfillment of his prophecy.
Again, since we are still here, that interpretation seems to present a serious problem for Christianity. After all, I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness because the founder of that organization made numerous failed prophecies. It would be a double standard to say that I reject a religion purporting the same basic message as Christianity on the basis of a failed prophecy by its founder if I excuse Christianity’s Ultimate Founder on his failed prophecy.
The trick is that Jesus isn’t a failed prophet. Let’s start at the beginning of the Olivet Discourse to find out why Jesus isn’t a failure. Read the rest of this entry
Daniel’s famous seventy weeks prophecy not only predicts the coming of the Messiah, but the exact date of Jesus’ crucifixion. This prophecy also predicts an “abomination of desolation” in that same timeframe. Here’s the prophecy:
Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator. (Dan 9:24-27)
This is a seriously misunderstood passage. The folks in Tim LaHaye’s camp think that this refers to the Antichrist. Actually, it refers to the Messiah. Both Satanic forces and heavenly forces are in view and presented as having a hand in the events. However, the ultimate focus of the passage is Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and his actions are what LaHaye and his futurist school of thought gravely misunderstand. Indeed, they must for their interpretation to even work. Read the rest of this entry