What are the blatant errors Harold Camping makes when it comes to interpreting the Bible?
On Saturday, October 8, 2011, I was interviewed by host Brian Thomas of Blessings to Israel Ministries on their “God First” program. During the hour long interview we discussed the many failed attempts of date-setters to declare an accurate date for the Lord’s return, especially concerning Harold Camping as his October 21, 2011, end of the world deadline approaches.
Date Setters Interpretive Errors
Brian Thomas: Harold Camping has some blatant errors when it comes to interpreting Bible prophecy. He uses his own calculations and bases his scenarios on how he perceives end time events occurring. How he finally comes up with his end time dates is based off this faulty interpretation. Can you point out some of these interpretive errors that he uses when it comes to his way of interpreting Bible prophecy?
Nathan Jones: Like any date setter or any cult leader (because this is what the cults do as well),, they look at the Bible but won’t take if for its plain sense, literal interpretation. Instead, they spiritualize it.
Camping has been known to say the the Bible is nothing more than a giant parable. A parable defined for us in Bible college is “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” Camping just runs with the Scriptures and makes them mean whatever he wants.
For example, just like William Miller did in the 1800’s, Camping takes Daniel 8:14 where it says, “…Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed,” and he just runs with it. Daniel 8:14 was part of a very detailed prophecy that was fulfilled when Antiochus Epiphanies of the Greek Empire sacrificed a pig on an altar in the Temple back way before Jesus’ time, a few hundred years before Jesus’ time actually. Antiochus Epiphanies is considered to be a precursor or type of the Antichrist, meaning when the Bible teaches about the Antichrist who will come in the future, we’re to look at Antiochus Epiphanies as a forerunner type. We can look at him and get a picture of what the Antichrist will be like. But, Daniel 8:14 has been fulfilled in history. The Maccabean Revolt cleansed the Temple and everything was done with that prophecy. But no, Camping runs with that verse and he finds hidden spiritual meanings in it.
Another example of Camping spiritualizing Scripture is when he read Revelation 11. This chapter talks about two witnesses for Jesus who during the first half of the seven year Tribulation that is coming up will be witnesses for Him. They will be in Jerusalem and they will share the Gospel with the world for 3 1/2 years. The chapter says the Antichrist will kill them, but after three days the Lord will resurrect them. No, says Camping, those witnesses aren’t real people but are the Church, and God is going to kill the Church!
On a side note, whenever these groups whether they are date setters or cults, they always feel that the Church needs to be kicked around by God to cleanse it. There is something wrong with the Church they believe and God needs to purify it, as if Christ’s blood alone doesn’t purify us from our sins as the Bible says. But, no, the Church has it coming to them they believe. These guys base their interpretation of end time events on the Church needing to be beat up by God for awhile to be cleansed, whatever that means.
Camping also takes Bible verses and he just chops them up, throws them into a blender so to speak, and he gets whatever he wants. He takes little bits from here and little bits from there and he glues them all together and that’s also how he comes up with his interpretations. Now, proper interpretation is called hermeneutics, which is the art and science of interpreting the Bible. There is a right way and there is a wrong way, and these date setter guys, well they go the wrong way. You just don’t take Bible verses out of context. You don’t spiritualize them thereby giving them any meaning you want. And, you don’t take historically proven events and say they must be all future. Camping does all of that.
To top his bad interpretation off, Camping being an engineer which is his background, loves numbers. He loves to play with numbers. I’m sure Brian you’ve got emails from people going on ten pages long with all their calculations and astrology signs and moons telling you this meaning and that. Based on their calculations, they come up with these dates for when Jesus could come. Of course, the better ones will append, “We can’t know the day or the hour just like Jesus said in Matthew 24.” But, it is true, they play with these numbers and come up with their spiritualized views of what the Bible says, which is also how they come up with all their crazy numbers.
For instance, six times in Revelation it says that the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus — when Jesus comes back and rules on this earth for 1,000 years — will be just that, a 1,000 years. But, no, Harold Camping says the thousand is really almost 2,000 years because that is the length of the Church Age so far. He has mixed the Church Age which we are in now with the Millennium which is a future time period. So, that is the problem. I mean, any 5 year old could get in the Bible and do what Harold Camping does in messing interpretations up, throwing verses around, and taking whatever meaning they want out of the text.
Brian Thomas: Exactly! That reminds me of a saying you all often quote at Lamb & Lion that I love that you say about those who spiritualize Bible Prophecy and don’t take it literally: “When the plain sense makes sense, look for no other sense, less you end up with nonsense.”
Nathan Jones: That is exactly right! That’s what Harold Camping has produced — a lot of nonsense. And really, you’d think the last two times that he date set and got it wrong that he would have learned his lesson, but he instead continues to make nonsense.
Test For Determining False Teachers
Nathan Jones: All we have to do is go to Deuteronomy 18:21-22 to see where the Bible gives us the litmus test for determining false prophets. “You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.”
I love that word from that passage — presumptuously. These false teachers presume they have some kind of inner knowledge that God has given them alone. But, God teaches in Deuteronomy how we can know if they’re the real deal. You can tell if they create a date or a prophecy and it doesn’t come true 100%, then we can know they are a false prophet.
Well, Harold Camping is a false prophet. People should know that about him by now. His followers should have realized that after two failures, but some people have just put their faith in the wrong things.
Brian Thomas: That is exactly right as far as Camping’s spiritualizing of the Bible. Once his prediction of May 21st of this year passed and there was no rapture of the Church and no return of Christ, then he kind of turned it around and declared something really did happen, but he was wrong in the literal sense. Jesus Camping said didn’t return physically but rather He returned spiritually, so he explained away his false prediction.
In the next part of this series “Deadline October 21,” Brian and I will navigate the twisted channels of Harold Camping’s end time scenario.