By Bryan Fischer
Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at “Focal Point”
Harold Camping, a Florida evangelist, has kicked a considerable amount of dust into the air by claiming that Christ will return for Christians on May 21, with the end of the world to occur a scant five months later on October 21.
The only thing we know for absolutely sure is that Harold Camping is wrong.
Why? Because Jesus says he’s wrong.
There are other significant problems with Camping’s theory. One is that his biblical chronology is quite confused. His entire theory is grounded on the date for the flood of Noah, but his math is just simply wrong here. He has the Flood dated to around 4900 BC, but simple addition from the chronological data given to us in Genesis 5 yields a date of 2586 BC or thereabouts for Noah’s deluge. So he’s only off by about 2300 years. And that’s just for starters.
Camping’s math is bad, but his theology is worse.
Speaking of his own return, Christ said these words: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, not the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Since “no one” includes Harold Camping, then he, by definition, does not know when Christ will return.
Jesus said that he himself didn’t even know. One thing I can tell you for certain: if the Father did not reveal the date of his return to Jesus Christ, he ain’t gonna tell Harold Camping.
Since Harold Camping claims he knows something that not even Jesus knew, and Jesus says that no man knows the day or the hour, then we know that Mr. Camping is wrong about his date certain. Jesus is not coming back on May 21.
Just before his ascension, the disciples of Jesus asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
It’s worth noting that Jesus, in his reply, does not deny that the day will come when he will in fact restore the kingdom of Israel. If this is the plan of Christ, then the United States might want to be on the right side of history when that day comes. President Obama should be taking notes right at this point.
Here’s what Jesus said in response to the disciples’ question: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). The word translated “times” is the Greek word kairos, which refers to critical moments in history, hinge points or turning points where history takes a sudden and unexpected turn. We’re not to know, Jesus says, when one of these hinge points is approaching.
The word translated “seasons” is chronos, from which we get our words chronology and chronometer. It refers to epochs, to long periods or stretches of history. Jesus said it is not for us to know what historical periods are coming or how long they will last. It’s just not for us to know. The Father has fixed these by his own volition, so he knows, but he’s not talking.
So Jesus could return on May 22 or not for a millennium. What we do know is that he’s not coming back on May 21.
As someone wisely said, we should live each day as if Christ is coming back tomorrow and live each day as if he’s not coming back for a thousand years.
Speaking of a thousand years, Camping builds his thesis on the statement of Peter that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Things get pretty convoluted here, but the essence of his thinking is that human history since the flood occupies one week, seven days, but since a day is worth a thousand years, that week is really a week of years, meaning history will wrap up 7,000 years after the Flood.
Not only is Camping’s math bad and his theology worse, his grammar is perfectly terrible. For Peter did not say, “with the Lord one day IS a thousand years,” he said, “with the Lord one day is AS a thousand years.” It’s a figure of speech, in other words, what writers call a simile, a comparison using the words “like” or “as.” The point Peter is making has to do with the Lord’s patience, not his ability to count or tell time.
Jesus says one other thing on the subject that is of particular note in this discussion. “Therefore you must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).
Since Mr. Camping expects him on May 21, we know he’s wrong because Jesus said that’s not the way this works. If you expect me on May 21, it ain’t gonna happen because I’m coming at a time that will catch everybody by surprise. Jesus says you’ll have no idea when I will come bursting back through the doors of history, so you best be ready at every moment.
So here’s the question that not even Mr. Camping is considering: if we don’t know the day of his return, that means that Christ could come back before the date Camping has circled on the calendar. What if Jesus comes back, not after May 21, but before? Will you be ready?
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)