May 21, 2011 came and went and the rapture did not occur. There was no blast of the trumpet, there was no voice of the archangel, no one was taken up in the air. In short, there was no second coming on May 21.
The only thing that happened was the unmasking of a false prophet, a lot of disappointed followers who came to the realization that the prediction of Harold Camping was as bogus as his book The Biblical Calendar of History.
If there was a rapture, then Harold Camping was left behind.
The issue that Camping’s failed prophecy of the second coming of Christ raises in the minds of people of faith is this: who among those who claim to speak for God truly speak the truth of God? Another issue that this debacle raises is how do we know that a prophet who speaks in the name of God has been sent by God?
According to Jesus, one can recognize false prophets by their fruits (Matthew 7:16). From an Old Testament perspective, we can recognize false prophets by looking at the havoc their false prophecies caused to the people of Israel.
Jeremiah criticized the prophets because they led the people astray with their falsehoods. He said: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you; they are deluding you. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:16).
Jeremiah said that these false prophets did not receive their message from the Lord, but that their visions, (or in Camping’s case, his message) were the creation of their own mind. The falseness of their message was seen in the content of what they proclaimed. Jeremiah said that the false prophets were proclaiming lies:
“I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name” (Jeremiah 23:25).
“Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back–those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? (Jeremiah 23:26).
The problem the people of Israel faced in the days of Jeremiah is not unknown in our own day because many people come claiming that they speak the word of God when in reality they are speaking the deceit of their own hearts.
Jesus also had to confront the same problem. According to Jesus, the coming of false prophets will be a sign of the last days. Jesus said: “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name’” (Matthew 7:22). Just because a person prophesies in Jesus’ name, it does not mean that the message being proclaimed is God’s message. Jesus told those false prophets: “Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me’” (Matthew 7:23).
People today must learn how to distinguish between those who speak the word of God and those whose messages are the visions of their own mind. This is the reason the Bible urges believers to “test the spirit” to see whether those who pretend to speak for God are sent by God. John wrote: “Dear friends, don’t believe all people who say that they have the Spirit. Instead, test them. See whether the spirit they have is from God, because there are many false prophets in the world” (1 John 4:1).
The result of Camping’s debacle is that non-believers will laugh at Christians with scorn. They can see through the falsehood of Camping’s claim and then cast doubts on the relevancy of the church in today’s society and the truthfulness of the Bible as the Word of God.
We who are ministers of the Word must not give the enemies of the Word an occasion to bring reproach to the church of Jesus Christ and ridicule to Christianity.
There are several things people can learn from this situation.
First, people must learn that the content of Camping’s book, The Biblical Calendar of History, is false. Camping claims in his book that God has left behind a complete calendar from creation to Christ. Included in this calendar is the precise date for the end of the world. Since nothing happened according to The Biblical Calendar of History, then people must accept the fact that everything in it is false.
Second, people must realize that every one of Camping’s books that are based on The Biblical Calendar of History is also false and cannot be trusted. Since The Biblical Calendar of History has proven to be a failure, then the other books that use The Biblical Calendar of History cannot be trusted.
Third, Harold Camping is discredited in the eyes of God and in the eyes of society. No one should take him seriously because the Lord has not sent him, and he made people trust in a lie (see Jeremiah 28:15-16).
Fourth, the Lord Jesus Christ is coming, but of that day and hour no one knows, only the Father in heaven. This is the reason people must be ready. One man failed in giving the day for the second coming of Christ. The Bible does not provide us with a date for that day. However, the Bible is clear that he is coming back, and soon.
Are you ready for that day?
Read also: Darrell Pursiful’s To Disillusioned Followers of Harold Camping
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary