A few weeks ago, my family and I went to Washington DC. It had been a while. The buildings, monuments, museums, and everything in between were awesome to see. Let’s talk about the “everything in between” part. I had been to Washington DC 4 times before, but something new was there this time. As we walked along the sidewalks, sounds of shofars being blown came from behind. As we turned to see where this noise came from, we soon realized it was coming from a row of about 5 large vans. They looked like news station vans, only they were wrapped with various graphics that read messages similar to, “Judgment Day: May 21, 2011.” One name immediately popped into my mind, “Harold Camping.” I began to remember the first time I heard of him. It was about two or three years ago when Dr. James White (Alpha and Omega Ministries) debated Harold Camping on the Iron Sharpens Iron radio program. Since then, I had researched him a bit, but soon forgot about him. But in Washington DC, I couldn’t forget, and soon found myself explaining Camping’s past, teachings, and methods of exegesis to my family members. The next day, as we poured out of the subway, more of Camping’s proponents were standing to greet all those who exited. They were engaging people in conversation, and handing out what looked like brochures that told of the end. They were an obvious group to see, because they were wearing bright flourescent yellow shirts that read May 21, 2011. Some of the shirts also had random messages that reminded of past natural disasters. My dad took one of the brochures and responded, “You know this guy said the end of the world would happen in 1994.” The man told him that 1994 had a question mark on it, denoting uncertainty, but that May 21, 2011 was the sure thing.
Some time later, we had all stopped at a McDonald’s stand to have a bite to eat. I frantically ate. I couldn’t stop thinking about these guys that were handing out their promotional material. I told my family not to rush, and that I would catch up with them at the next location. I stood up and began speed walking through the National Mall, which isn’t an actual mall, but a long stretch of land surrounded by the US Capitol, Smithsonian museums, Washington Monument, and other sites. Anyhow, I was desperately looking for any of the bright fluorescent yellow shirts I could find, but I found none. I began to pray, and asked the Lord to direct me to any of them. Then I saw them. I was shaking a bit – not sure if it was because I was anticipating the dialogue, or because I had just basically jogged a long distance to get where I was and I’m not in the best shape of my life. Anyhow, I caught my breath, and found a man by the name of Nathan. I asked him for a pamphlet. I also asked him to explain what it was about, assuring him I was familiar with Camping, but that I wanted to hear from “one of his followers.” Nathan didn’t like that I referred to him as one of Camping’s followers. We spent about 20 minutes talking about the the gospel, the Scriptures, allegorization, the historical grammatical method, preterism, monergism, etc. He didn’t want to entertain the thought that May 22 was a possibility. He was a very nice guy. I then walked across the mall, and met another gentleman names Sam. As I spoke to him, another man came up behind me. He was literally standing about 5 inches away. He didn’t say a word. It was kind of weird. Anyhow, this was my conversation with Sam:
Me: Hey, what’s up, man? What’s your name?
Sam: Sam, what’s yours?
Me: Chris. I was speaking to Nathan over there. I was trying to ask him, “What must I do to be saved from this?”
Sam: Yah, unless you’re a child of God. God already predestinated who He’s going to choose. So, God gives you that desire in your heart to seek Him, to draw near, so there’s nothing we can do. But He is the One who will draw you near. The only thing we can do is ask for mercy. That’s all we can do. In the end time, all we can do is pray for mercy.
Me: What are the propositions that must be believed?
Sam: Uh, like..?
Me: the gospel.
Sam: The gospel… yah, sure! That’s why you draw near and read the Word. And you draw closer to that. There’s no work that you can do.
Me: I understand that, but I still have to place my faith in Christ, right?
Sam: Oh, yah, definitely.
Me: And place our faith in the propositions He has made known to us. Right? Like, life, death, resurrection…
Sam: Yah, that’s how you learn from the Bible. You read it so that is how you draw closer and nearer.
Me: My question to him, “If I reject the end times interpretation that you guys hold, would I still be saved from it if it happened?”
Sam: Well, you know, God is not looking at certain knowledge that you have. If He has chosen you, He has chosen you. That’s the bottom line. Now, if God is telling us in His word that He’s giving us this timeline, then, as a believer, you will be drawn closer to it. Keep constantly praying. Because He will open your eyes for you. If you’re not comfortable with the date, then all you can do is pray to God.
Me: I’m familiar with Harold Camping. I’ve heard a lot of his stuff. My issue with what he is saying though is that he uses allegorization to interpret Scripture and numerology and not the historical grammatical interpretation.
Sam: God spoke in parables, right? Parables are what? Mysteries. hidden messages from God.
Me: Some were parables, not everything in the bible is a parable.
Sam: If you look all throughout Genesis on, God spiritually taught the whole Bible.
Me: When Paul says to throw the guy that’s having a relationship with his father’s wife out of the church – what’s the spiritualization there?
Sam: I don’t think that everything is.
Me: Oh, I thought you just everything was. Because when Christ interprets the parable, He’s not interpreting the parable with a parable. He didn’t say, “Here’s one meaning, but there’s also a bunch of other meanings, and it’s subjective.” There’s one truth to the text.
Sam: There’s one truth, exactly. So, if you misunderstand something, God will open your eyes. Eventually, you’ll never get to the full meaning of the Bible.
Me: Right, the more I study, the more I realize I need to study more.
Sam: Everytime I open up the Bible and read another verse, new meaning can come out of that. If you study more, God opens your eyes. Nothing that we can do, God has predestinated everybody.
Me: Ok, but when I evangelize, I don’t just say, “Cry out for mercy to God” and leave it at that. I take them through the law, show them how broken and sinful they are. Then I give them the good news… the good news to the bad news. What it sounds like, though, is that there is no gospel here.
Sam: We don’t have time to go through all the gospel.
Me: That’s how men are saved. That’s the power of salvation.
Sam: That’s true, but the bottom line is that we are coming so close. God is going to either strike fear in the people… if you’re the chosen, God’s going to strike fear, and you’ll say “I’m not saved.” That’s how He draws them near. Trials and tribulations that the believers go through, that’s unimaginable. God is distant in that time. Even the last 17 years we are going through, the latter reign, He’s drawing those believers out.
Me: I would disagree with some of the things your saying. What I was saying to Nathan was that my belief is that when Christ is talking about his coming within that generation, He meant that literally. Even the Jews said, “let His blood be on us and our children.” The destruction of Jerusalem happened within a generation. I believe in the second advent, as far as His corporal return, but since I reject this… I reject the rapture view, I reject the tribulational view, they’re new views, and Harold would say that they’re new. He’d say the church has never known this, and that we are in the end times now. And the Spirit has revealed these things.
Sam: Look at Daniel. He is told to hide the secrets. And at the end time, He’s going to reveal them. Even 20 years ago, none of this thing would’ve opened up.
Me: Isn’t Christ the fulfillment of the law and the prophets? They are revealed in Christ.
Sam: No, because in the book of Daniel…
Me: But Christ says that He’s the fulfillment of the law and prophets.
Sam: Yah, God knew everything. It was hidden. It started in 1988. That was the end of the church age.
Me: The book of Daniel does say seal up these things.
Me: Do you believe that the book of Revelation pertains to the end times too?
Me: In the book of Revelation, He says, “Don’t seal up this book because the time is soon and it’s near.” So we have Daniel being told to seal it up, and in Revelation we’re told not to seal it up.
Sam: You got to remember, God sees a day as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. God’s timeline can not be…
Me: He’s communicating to finite beings. So, we are left confused here, because an infinite being…
Sam: That’s right. You’re right.
Me: No. I disagree with that. I don’t think that there is confusion, because I think that an infinite being Who knew what we would be like before the foundations of the world knew that He was going to elect a certain people, die for them, draw them to Himself – that He’s able to communicate to them. Beings that He Himself created. It almost sounds like God gave us something that’s confusing here.
Sam: Well, it is confusing. In fact unbelievers will never get it.
Me: Yah, I get that. They’re spiritually darkened.
Sam: Yah, they’re never going to see the light. Well, just like we said, God is going to open up your eyes if you’re one of the elect.
Me: Ok, that’s what I’m still trying to get though. The gospel is the propositions that must be believed in order to be saved. Correct? Or is it the gospel plus judgment?
Sam: It’s only up to God. If He opens up your spiritual eyes, He’s going to draw you near, you’re going to get closer to the Bible, you’re going to try to follow through as much as you can. We live in a sinful body so we can not do everything perfectly by the law, which God has revealed to us. So it is through Jesus Christ’s blood that we are saved. That’s the only thing.
Me: That’s what I was kind of wondering. When I see a lot of the Harold Camping stuff, I don’t see it being proclaimed apostolically. And I don’t mean in a charismatic way, where people are doing back flips off of chairs. I mean, “God does exist, this is how He has revealed Himself, He’s sovereign, He has elected a people, Christ died in their stead. Believe on Christ, these propositions set forth and you will be saved.” And I know that repentance and faith are a gift from God, and they aren’t works. But is that enough to save people? Because that’s what the apostles said. The men said, “What shall we do to be saved?!” They [apostles] didn’t say, “Well, you know if you read Scriptures, and this whole explanation…” They said, “Believe and..
Sam: But who revealed that?
Me: Well, the Father. That’s why Jesus said to Peter, “The Father revealed this to you.”
Sam: So, if He has revealed that to you, if you are chosen by God, then that’s it. In your heart, you’ll know. I can’t see your heart and how you’re feeling right now, but even before you’re thinking, He already knows.
Me: But there is still confession and belief, from a human standpoint.
Sam: Yah, but you confess to God though. You’re not going to go to some pastor or priest and say, “I’ve sinned.”
Sam: Well, I think you’re on the right track.
Me: Well, I’m not looking for vindication. I’m looking for, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I’m just trying to figure out what you guys believe.
Sam: We’re just trying to warn. One individual, maybe when they were little they heard about the Bible. And certain things stick out, and they think “What does that mean? Where does God say that it’s going to be May 21?” We are trying to say it’s complicated, it’s not something you can do overnight, it takes years to come to understand how the timeline works. But…
Me: Just take our word for it…
Sam: No, read, pray to God, ask questions. That’s the only thing you can do.
Me: Shouldn’t you guys just be saying, “Believe the gospel”….?
Sam: Yah… I mean…
Me: That’s how men are saved.
Sam: You can do that, but, you know there are a lot of organizations that try to just say, “Believe in the gospel.”
Me: And they’re void of repentance. I understand that, but there’s a correct way to do it, though.
Sam: We aren’t saying this is the right way. This is the only thing that we can do with the short time we have. We just get as much information out as we can through the caravans, through the.. you’ve listened to it on the radio, right?
Me: I’m from South Florida. I don’t think we get it down there.
Sam: We use all means possible. If He uses us as one of the workers, so be it. As much information as goes out, even people who have never seen it before, even the non believers. God is the One Who is going to draw them. You don’t have to be the one who was born as a Christian all the way through, God, at the last minute on the cross to the thief, Christ says, “remember me.” And he said, “Yes, I’ll remember you.” And he was saved. So, it is at the last day. Today is the day of salvation, so that is how we are doing it. As quickly as we can, and God will do the work.
Me: I’m sure you get this question billions of times, but what if, let’s say, May 22 rolls along. Will it shatter your faith?
Sam: Not mine. Actually, I can wake up, and I’ll be fine .
Sam: But, I don’t even think about that. But it won’t shatter my faith…
Me: Ok, well it was nice meeting you, dude
Sam: Nice to meet you
And that was our conversation. The quote that stuck out most to me? “We don’t have time to go through all the gospel.” We spoke for about 12 minutes. Was that not enough time?
God does have an elect people. God does call them. God does draw them. But He has used means to do it. The gospel. That is the good news. And I didn’t hear this man speaking about it at all. He sounds more like a hyper calvinist than a Christian. Even if it took a month to explain the gospel to one individual, would that not be worth it? There is rejoicing in heaven over one person who comes to repentance. Throughout this week, I will be taking apart the pamphlet that they had given me. If you should see these guys around, don’t laugh, don’t mock, don’t put them down. Proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ name to them. And if the Lord should tarry beyond May 21, the faith of many will be shattered. Instead of saying, “I told you so,” comfort them with the good news of the gospel. Believe it or not, Christ even died for those who would twist His words.