Chicken Little Theology

If you are reading this after 6:00PM on Saturday May 21, Herald Camping is wrong…

He teaches that Jesus will return at that specific time based on the cycles of Jewish feast days in the Hebrew calendar, the lunar month (1 synodic month = 29.53059 days), and our Gregorian calendar tropical year (365.24219 days, rounded to 365.2422).

Camping calculates that the crucifixion of Christ took place on Friday April 1, AD 33. (which would make Jesus about 39 when he was crucified)

In 1992, Camping published “1994?” in which he proclaimed that Christ’s return might be on September 6, 1994. In that publication, he also mentioned that 2011 could be the end of the world. Camping’s predictions use 1988 as a significant year; this was also the year he left Alameda Bible Fellowship.

Camping’s latest publications, “We are Almost There!” and “To God be The Glory,” refer to additional “biblical evidence” that points to May 21, 2011 as the date for the Rapture and October 21, 2011 as the date for the end of the world.

This guy is a nut.

He’s no different than Edgar C. Whisenant who published “8 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. Predicted that the Rapture would occur in 1988.” When that didn’t happen he published “The final shout: Rapture report 1989.” Then when 1989 didn’t end the world he wrote “23 reasons why a pre-tribulation rapture looks like it will occur on Rosh-Hashanah 1993.” and finally “And now the earth’s destruction by fire, nuclear bomb fire. Prediction for 1994.”

No surprise, we’re still here.

The problem isn’t just with “date setting” (although, that is a HUGE problem) it’s with this whole methodology of interpretation for Biblical prophecy.

Daniel 9’s “70-weeks” are not a prophetic clock counting down to the rapture. It’s a prophetic text that parallels the 70-years of captivity in Babylon. The “70-7s [of years]” began when Israel was sent back to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (cf. Dan 9:25).

Well, 70 x 7 = 490, and I don’t know how strong you are in Bible history (hopefully better than these guys) but that was a lot more than 490 years ago.

You can start this prophecy’s timeline at the decree of Cyrus in 538BC to rebuild the Temple (see: 1 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4; 5:13, 17; 6:3) or at the decree of Artaxerxes I, associated with Ezra, in 457BC (cf. Neh. 2:1, Ezra 7:11-26).

If you start by the decree under Cyrus you end up with a prophecy associated with Anticous Epiphanies who destroyed the Temple. If you start with the decree of Artaxerxes then you end up with a prophecy about Jesus. This view makes the last “week” begin at Jesus’ baptism and end when the Apostle Paul takes the gospel to the Gentiles.

The latter is my position, but either way, it’s not May 21, 2011. Any view that would cause God’s “prophetic clock” to “pause” and restart again later is completely unbiblical, sensational, and should be avoided by all believers.

There are a lot of other reasons why this kind of theology is flawed, but just let me encourage you to not fall for it. The Bible does not give us these kinds of dates and times.

Jesus is coming back, but most of the Bible passages that these “prophets” use to predict the date and time are not even about when Jesus will come back. Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 17 &21 are Jesus’ prediction of a coming Judgment, the destruction of the Temple, not the end of the world, just the end of their world as they knew it. The “one taken/one remains” (cf. Jer 6:11) is not talking about a “rapture” into heaven, it’s talking about being destroyed as a judgment:

I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.And they said to him, ‘Taken where, Lord?’ He said to them, ‘Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.’

-Luke 17:34-37

Just as has always been the case, when the Lord comes in judgment, he doesn’t give the exact time beforehand, the idea is to be prepared so that he finds His people doing His work. When Jesus comes back, it will be a great day of joy for believers, and a great Day of judgment for everyone else:

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

-Matt 24:44

This is why we need to get busy making disciples of all the nations. That’s what Christians are called to do, make disciples. Our job isn’t to get out our decoder rings and figure out God’s time-table. There is a world out there who need to hear the gospel, let’s get after it. Be a light to the nations!

About John Harris

χian, Jesus saves. μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα, Pastor at Pleasant Heights, PhD (NT) candidate at Midwestern; forever Texan, μολὼν λαβέ; Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Allons-y
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