By now, most of you have heard or read that Harold Camping has died at the age of 92. I wish we could rejoice over his legacy as a Bible teacher, but sadly, his ministry brought more destruction than it did blessing to the people of God.
If you will recall, Camping made prediction after prediction that Jesus would return. I learned about Camping while covering religion for the Times Record News in Wichita Falls, TX. His book, 1994?, landed on my desk. I guess I was supposed to read it and give a review of it, but even as a new believer I knew better than to give Camping any credence whatsoever. Jesus told us that no man knows the hour or time which the Son of Man will return. Camping was trying to say that he did, despite our Savior’s warning.
Camping was clever in it as well. He not only said he figured it out, using formulas for math in the Old Testament and such, he explained it all in his book, $47.60 from Vantage Press. In fact, Amazon still has first editions of this wonderful book for sale now, for $47.60. You think the geniuses at Amazon and Vantage Press would realize there is something fundamentally flawed about this book. Hhm? I wonder what that could be?
Because of his horrible prediction in 1994, he changed his story to say that it was not the return of Jesus that took place in 1994, but the end and death of the church. The true believers, i.e., those who were faithfully following him, should come out of the visible church and only support godly ministries like Camping’s. In fact, according to those who followed Camping, Camping’s ministry was the ONLY ONE worthy of following.
This had a direct impact on a friend’s ministry here in Texas. Two families in his church believed they needed to leave the church and even be excommunicated, per Camping’s instructions, to show that they were true followers. My friend refused to excommunicate them. (BTW, it was also those two families that rejected my ministry because I was still single at the time. I add that for full disclosure).
The problem with all this is that if Camping was truly a prophet, how is it that he got so much wrong, was able to change his story, and continue on with the ruse that he alone knew the date in which Jesus was to return?
I think Paul said something concerning this: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers. We always tend to think this verse applies only to those who don’t really believe the Bible and want to just go through the motions of religion. But it applies to people who carry the Bible around like the Campinites did. They place Camping at the head of their church and followed his every word. Any time a man becomes the authority for faith and practice, and not the Scripture, the people of God will be misled.
Those following him should have realized that when Jesus said that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, that He really meant it. It was not dead. As long as there are believers on the earth, the church is not dead.
I will give it to Camping. After his last failure in predicting the return of Christ in 2012, he did repent of such nonsense. His problem was thinking that he was the final authority on these issues and not submitting to the local and visible church of elders. Any man who fails to submit to elders is in danger of doing the same thing Camping did. I am grateful that Camping finally admitted his error. That gives me hope that he was a true brother in the LORD, and that he is with our Savior now.