Harold Camping, Founder and President of Family Radio, passed away on Sunday, December 15, 2013. A statement from Family Radio reads as follows:
Harold Camping – Home with the Lord!
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.”
Yesterday, Sunday, December 15th, at around 5:30 p.m., Harold Camping passed on to glory and is now rejoicing with his beloved Savior!
On Saturday, November 30th, Mr. Camping sustained a fall in his home, and he was not able to recover from his injuries. He passed away peacefully in his home, with his family at his side. We know that each of us remain in God’s hand, and God is the One who knows our appointed time to leave our earthly body behind.
We are so grateful to God for Brother Camping’s dedication to Family Radio and for his lifetime of service to God. We are thankful to know that Family Radio is God’s ministry, and will continue to be in God’s care and keeping.
Please remember the Camping family in your prayers, in particular, Mrs. Camping, Mr. Camping’s wife of over seventy-one years. May God sustain her in her loss.
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
There’s little need at this point to re-tell the story of the numerous failed “doomsday” predictions Harold Camping has made, nor would it be appropriate to make comments that might be seen as celebratory on the occasion of his death. Nonetheless, I would like to make some observations concerning the fundamental presupposition that underlies the above public statement made by Family Radio.
The statement presupposes that Mr. Camping was, without doubt, a Christian. As such, he is now “at home” and “rejoicing with his beloved Savior!”
Now this is, of course, the great and blessed hope of every believer in Christ, and no orthodox Christian would ever deny that a true believer in Christ will one day rejoice in Christ’s presence. Family Radio obviously takes it for granted that Mr. Camping was a true believer in Christ. As those of you who are familiar with my past articles on Camping already know, I am not at all prepared to take that for granted.
Before I say anything else, I want to be clear: I am not saying it is impossible that Camping was a true Christian and he is not at this very moment in the loving care of Jesus Christ. To the contrary, it is entirely possible. If the Apostle Paul, who laid waste of the church (I Tim. 1:12), can repent because of the gracious intervention of God, then certainly the same was possible in the case of Mr. Camping. There is no question about that. The real question is whether we have evidence to establish the credibility of Camping’s profession of faith at the end of his life.
There are glimmers of hope in that connection: It’s my understanding that on October 28, 2011, Camping admitted that he shouldn’t have said those who denied his May 21st prophesy weren’t saved people. The following March he said that their “bold” claim that the Bible guaranteed Christ’s return on May 21 was a “sinful statement”. Family Radio wrote this:
But we now realize that those people who were calling our attention to the Bible’s statement that ‘of that day and hour knoweth no man’ (Matthew 24:36 & Mark 13:32), were right in their understanding of those verses and Family Radio was wrong. Whether God will ever give us any indication of the date of His return is hidden in God’s divine plan.
They further commented:
We tremble before God as we humbly ask Him for forgiveness for making that sinful statement. We are so thankful that God is so loving that He will forgive even this sin.
These sorts of admissions give some reason to believe that Camping was repentant, or at least moving in that direction, as the Lord may have been dealing with him in that regard.
But the problem isn’t so much with what was said so much as what was left out. To my knowledge, for example, there was never an admission of responsibility for the grave consequences that Camping’s apocalyptic teachings had literally around the world, from the hundreds of Hmong Christians in Vietnam who were slaughtered in the Spring of 2011, to the many in America who gave away all their possessions and quit their jobs in anticipation of being “raptured”.
To the contrary, there was an emphasis on the “good” that came out of all this:
Even as God used sinful Balaam to accomplish His purposes, so He used our sin to accomplish His purpose of making the whole world acquainted with the Bible…
Lastly, there is still a lot of heretical theology that remains un-addressed. For example, Camping taught that the unsaved were annihilated rather than eternally punished, and, as late as a year ago, he still maintained that the church age was over. It’s unclear to this author whether that meant (as Camping had previously taught) that those who stayed in the church were spiritually lost.
As we consider the troubling legacy that Harold Camping leaves, it is worthwhile to take a sober look at what scripture says about those who prophesy falsely (Deut. 18:20-22). It is also worthwhile to rethink the habit we have in Evangelicalism nowadays to assume someone is a Christian merely because they say they are. Camping’s heresy wasn’t simply a quibble about eschatology (as one stubbornly foolish woman once suggested to me), it was that he denied the gospel (by adopting annihilationism), denied the clear teaching of scripture with his date-setting (Mark 13:32, Matt. 24:36), became a false prophet for the same reason (relative to 1994 and 5-21-11), and finally had made a frontal assault on the church, the bride of Christ, by asserting that the church age is over and anyone who remains in it cannot be saved.
Perhaps he repented and was forgiven by our most merciful God in Christ. I hope he was. But these are not small things, and there is no evidence, that I’ve seen at any rate, to suggest that we should necessarily take Camping’s salvation for granted.