Wednesday, January 06, 2010

IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT

Among all the other weird things he says, Harold Camping now says the end of the world will occur in October 2011. I was worried I would miss my birthday party that month. I guess I will, because Camping also says May 21, 2011 will be the date of the rapture.

Camping teaches an odd and often contradictory set of beliefs. He claimed to be an amillenialist, but believes in a rapture and sounds more like a dispensational premillenialist. He also believes the church age is over, but the “rapture” has not come yet, although the purpose of the rapture is to end the church age and remove the church from the world before the tribulation (if you are dispensational and believe in 3 comings of Christ).

I thought Camping would be better off to say the end will come a year later, in 2012. The Mayans say 2012 and even got a movie out of it. Camping got nothing but his radio show, and I bet he has to pay to air that.

Here is what Camping says about The End. “Thus, we have learned that a great many facts harmonize with the conclusion that the Great Tribulation began in 1988 and ends at the end of the world in A.D. 2011. Further, that it was divided into two parts, the first part being 2,300 days and the second part being 17 years, also appears to harmonize with any and all Biblical data that relates to this subject. And now, we have no option. We can't say 'maybe' 'it's possible' 'it looks very probable...' No way! We have to say this is what the Bible teaches! This is fact! May 21, 2011 is the day of the Rapture, it is the day that Judgment Day begins....” (Harold Camping, 12-3-2008 on "Open Forum")

It sounds like he is pretty sure of it, doesn’t it? Well, note that he previously thought it would end in 1994.

Lest you think Camping is the only wing nut to predict The End inaccurately, you might examine the teachings of some other famous folks.

For example, there is Chuck Smith, who started the “Calvary Chapel” movement. He wrote a book in 1978 called "Future Survival". He predicted The End for 1981. This really upset me because I had just graduated from law school. I was rather carnal, but wished it would have ended before I did all that studying. I think Smith even planned a “Welcome Home, Jesus” party. Of course, I knew even then that earth was not Jesus’ home, at least not until the Father made all things new and we all lived with the new heavens and new earth.

I guess the ‘70s were ripe for this kind of prophesy of the end. The real biggie was Hal Lindsey. I had never heard of him until someone gave me his book, "The Late, Great Planet Earth" in paperback and told me it would explain everything. I really did not know anything about the dispensational model at that point in time.

Well, Lindsey wrote that the Rapture would be happen no later than 1981. He was most impressed with the fact that Israel had been re-constituted in 1947-48, tied it to the metaphor of the olive tree, added in Jesus’ comment about his coming in “this generation”, ignored the fact that this generation would be within the lifetime of those to whom he addressed his speech, and decided the “rapture’ would occur within 40 years of 1948. That meant 1988 was the last possible year. I could not make any sense of the olive tree thing, remembered Jesus said no one knew the date and ignored it. The book is in my garage somewhere. 1988 came and went, but The End did not.

Lindsey went on to write several other books, his failure to predict the date seemingly guaranteeing his success at publishing. This may have been because his reading of Revelation was not literal, but found symbolism of modern day events, weapons and nations and applied the scripture to the events of the day to make it look like this was the moment of fulfillment.

The End still did not come, so he wrote "The 1980's: Countdown to Armageddon". That didn’t happen either, but he still sold books and did interviews on radio and television.

The 1980s continued to abound in End Times Fever as Edgar C. Whisenant) wrote his famous book “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988”. I was pretty jaded by this time and did not pay any attention to it. Others did, however, buying over 4 million copies of it and his next book. Whisenant was a former NASA engineer and had the sense of exactness that only engineers can muster: he said the Rapture would occur in 1988 between September 11 and September 13.

I remember my pastor said he received many inquiries from fearful folks, so he preached a sermon debunking the book. My thought: if the supposed Rapture means we all go to heaven and avoid the difficulty, why would you be afraid? Wouldn’t you jump for joy?

Well, Whisenant also wrote “On Borrowed Time”. He was so confident, he said "Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong…" He was definitely wrong, but you cannot find a Bible version that says Jesus will come in 1988.

Of a funny, and weird, side note, Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) provided special instructions on praying for the Rapture.

I have no idea why you would need to pray for the Rapture. Maybe “make your calling and election sure”, but not pray for the Rapture. The Rapture is doing fine, thank you.

Whisenant was not deterred. He continued to write and predicted dates in 1989, 1993, and 1994 for the Rapture. For some reason, sales dropped off. I guess it was that “cry wolf” thing. Whisenant finally died and Jesus still had not come. Hopefully, he was able to find out why.

Maybe it was the big hair of the 80s that set all these preachers off, but failure did not abate the predictions. Pat Robertson picked 1982. He predicted that the Soviet Union would invade Israel. That would set off a nuclear war that would be the Battle of Armageddon and that would be The End. That didn’t happen, but others thought the world was coming to an end when Robertson ran for president in 1988.

Moving along, Lester Sumrall wrote a little book called “I Predict 1985”. In 1986, he wrote a book called “I Predict 2000”.

The 80s mercifully ended, but the predictions did not. Benny Hinn, white wearing stadium preacher and channeler of a dead evangelist, predicted the Rapture would occur in 1993. He went on to say that God would destroy all homosexuals by fire in ’95. Of course, 1993 has come and gone, Benny is still wearing white, making millions, but has, thankfully, cut the comb over, which some thought made him look like the Anti-Christ. And I have not seen any gays flaming in the literal sense.

Where Hinn failed, Kenneth Hagin stepped in without fear, predicting 1997 for The Grand Finale. For some reason, Hagin evidently felt it would all start in St.Louis rather than the Plain of Megiddo, but I would have thought Detroit.

Jack Van Impe, who also has suspicious hair, made a video with the catchy title of "A.D. 2000...The End?" He figured the Rapture would occur in 1992 and, of course figuring in a 7 year Great Tribulation, calculated The Final Curtain for 1999. I'm guessing he did not get invited to Prince’s big party.

The 1990s ended without the Big Event, Clinton did not turn out to be the Antichrist, and Hal Lindsey got back into the game with "Planet Earth - 2000". This would be the date for the big battle. Hey, you can’t hit if you don’t swing. Plus he is in good company. Newton went for that date, too. There is something about those zeros they just cannot resist. Here is a thought, though. What if God uses the Hebrew Calendar rather than the Julian calendar? I mean, which would he want the Julian Calendar? Or, what if he does not use a calendar? Would he care about the zeros?

All this has made me tired: So many predictions, so much time. I think I will stick with Jesus and believe no one but the Father knows the time and he did not leave a puzzle for us to figure out. If he had, I am sure Dan Brown would have written a book about it.

Remember, the purpose of the warning to watch for the return of Christ, is to be living for him when he returns, not to try and figure out when it will be so you do not have to pay your credit card bills.
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