“The Bible guarantees it,” is the slogan you see plastered on billboards, signs, cars, tracts, and different kinds of literature. So what exactly does the Bible guarantee? Well, according to Harold Camping’s hermeneutic the Bible teaches that on May 21, 2011 Jesus Christ will return in Judgment ushering in the rapture of all believers and the end of the world.
Upon what basis does Harold Camping support his prophetic claims? Sound exegesis and hermeneutics? Nope, but rather using an allegorical and numerological interpretation of certain biblical texts coupled with his wild-eyed imagination, Mr. Camping is able to come up with his theories. It is a method of interpretation that tends to neglect the original intent of the authors and attempts to find hidden meanings or symbols behind certain words and numbers. This is grounded on the fact that Jesus himself spoke in parables, therefore everything we read in the Bible is to be understood in a parabolic sense. Is this a valid method of interpretation? Did Jesus and the apostles employ this method? Did anyone throughout church history ever use this method?
The problem with Mr. Camping’s hermeneutic is that it ignores the different types of literature that are found in the Bible. Yes, it is true Jesus spoke in parables, but it also true he spoke plainly and direct. Paul likewise spoke in a normal plain sense especially when we read the didactic passages found in his letters. One needs to realize that the Bible is a book filled with different forms of literature such as didactic teachings (teachings that are meant to teach or instruct), parables, poetry, history, apocalyptic, etc. But to single out one form of literature and make that the standard for interpreting every single passage in the Bible is to turn on its head the original meaning of the text that was intended by the original author.
Just to give you an example of Camping’s teachings, he believes that by using his method of interpretation the Bible clearly shows that from the date of the flood in Noah’s day (which nobody knows the exact time and date when it actually occurred) all the way up to May 21, 2011 marks approximately 7000 years. What does 7000 have to do with anything? According to Camping, in Genesis 7:4 we read “For yet seven days, … and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.” Camping draws a connection between the seven days mentioned in Genesis 7:4 and Peter’s statement in 2 Peter 3:8, which states “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” So in Genesis 7:4 seven days really means seven thousand years. But upon what exegetical basis can anyone make that parallel? Is that really what Peter meant? I suggest to you that it is not. Just reading the context of 2 Peter you can clearly see that Peter is making the point that Christ can return in any minute in light of the many scoffers who continually make a mockery of the Christian’s belief of the second coming of Jesus Christ. There is nothing in the text or context that allows anyone to make the parallel Camping is making. Moreover, verse 10 says that “the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”, but apparently this thief has already been caught by Harold Camping if we use his hermeneutic.
According to Camping, the church age ceased to exist on May 21, 1988 and the Spirit of God is no longer present in any church today. Therefore, Mr. Camping exhorts all believers to abandon their churches (since there are no more true churches post May 21, 1988) and proclaim the Gospel. Evidently, the Gospel according to Mr. Camping is to tell everyone that Judgment Day is coming May 21, 2011. Was this the same Gospel that Jesus and the Apostles preached?
How does Camping know all of this? Well, it is because Harold Camping is the final authority for anything he claims. His view on the church is clearly in opposition to what the Scriptures actually teach about the nature of the church. Hebrews 10:25 instructs us not to forsake the assembly; Ephesians 5 reveals that Jesus gave Himself up for the Church; Paul instructs Timothy in 1 Timothy on how a local church should function. How do these passages square up with Mr. Camping’s ecclesiology?
Now obviously this is not the first time someone makes outlandish claims such as the ones proposed by Mr. Camping, but how many people actually buy into these claims? Moreover, how many Christian can give an adequate response to these claims? For a more in depth analysis of Mr. Harold Camping and his teaching I have a provided a link that contains an audio debate with Dr. James R. White and Harold Camping that addresses this particular issue. With all that being said, let us remember the words of Jesus, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father…Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:36, 42-44)”
Here is the link to the debate between Dr. James R. White and Harold Camping: http://aomin.org/