Harold Camping Week: Day 7 / May Day

William Miller was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 1782. He was a churchgoing Baptist who afterward became a Deist through the influence of his friends. He then attempted to be both a Baptist and a Deist. In 1816, Miller was asked to read a sermon in his church, which had allegedly powerfully converted him to Christianity. The gospel had made such an impression on him, that he said of that day,

“”Suddenly the character of a Savior was vividly impressed upon my mind. It seemed that there might be a Being so good and compassionate as to Himself atone for our transgressions, and thereby save us from suffering the penalty of sin. I immediately felt how lovely such a Being must be; and imagined that I could cast myself into the arms of, and trust in the mercy of, such an One.”
In an attempt to harmonize Scripture, he hungrily studied the Bible. He was particularly interested in the prophetic portions such as Daniel and the book of Revelation. His personal Bible had study notes that dated the creation of the world at 4004 B.C. He figured that since all of the major events throughout the Bible could be dated, then so could the second coming of Christ.
Consequently, Miller found a verse that set the date of Christ’s second coming. It was Daniel 8:14,
“Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”
Miller decided that the start date for this period would be 457 B.c. This was the year that Cyrus commanded that Jerusalem would be rebuilt. (Ezra 1:1, Isa. 44:28; 45:13; Daniel 9:25). Convinced that one day in prophecy was equal to one year, he decided and proclaimed that the “cleansing of the sanctuary” would take place within a year after March 21, 1843. So Christ would return any time between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. He viewed the cleansing of the sanctuary as Christ’s return in order to cleanse the world or the church of evil – establishing His kingdom on earth.

457 B.C. + 2300 years = A.D. 1843

Harold Camping is not the first person that has tripped over Daniel 8. We looked at this vision of Daniel verse by verse in [Harold Camping Week: Day 5 / Painting By Numbers]. It was demonstrated that this passage so clearly speaks of 2,300 days that Antiochus Epiphanes had control of Jerusalem. Anyhow, before long, 100,000 people were following Miller and his chronology. “Millerism,” also known as “Adventism” had exploded into a national craze. Miller was preaching this message throughout Baptist, Methodist, and Congregationalist churches. He used intricate charts to illustrate his messages. He even wrote a book entitled Evidence From Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ about the Year 1843: Exhibited in a Course of Lectures. This book increased the number of followers, and other preachers joined him in preaching this message.
Well… March 21, 1844 came AND March 21, 1844 went with much disappointment. Miller apologized to his followers:
“I confess my error, and acknowledge my disappointment; yet I still believe that the day of the Lord is near, even at the door; and I exhort you, my brethren, to be watchful, and not let that day come upon you unawares.”
Many followers fell away and returned to their former churches. In Exeter, New Hampshire some prominent members of this movement claimed that Christ would return on the Festival of the Atonement on October 22, 1844, and not on the Jewish New Year as Miller had stated. Many people became excited again and quit their jobs so they could spend their time preaching this new date of the Lord’s coming. Sound familiar? October 22, 1844 came AND October 22, 1844 went with even greater disappointment than before. This became known as The Great Disappointment. Miller decided to give up any speculations concerning prophecy. He admitted his failure as many gave up Adventism and others Christianity. Hiram Edson, one of the early founders of Seventh Day Adventism (a Sabbath-keeping sect of Adventism), waited with his friends for Christ’s return. Upon the Great Disappointment, he is quoted as saying:
“Our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted, and such a spirit of weeping came over us as I never experienced before. It seemed that the loss of all earthly friends could have been no comparison. We wept, and wept, till the day dawn.”

In April 1845 a group of believers, who retained Miller’s basic theology (not his prophetic timetables), met in Albany, New York in order to list their basic beliefs concerning [Christ’s second coming, the resurrection of believers, and the destruction and renewal of earth]. These issues have caused many to create various sects of Adventism. Upon Miller’s death in 1849, he was succeeded by the prophetess/visionary Ellen G. White. White began to have her own revelations, ignoring the interpret-the-Scriptures-only method of Miller. Some sects of Adventism accept her, and others reject her teachings. She was considered to be a “continuing and authoritative source of truth.” Yikes.

Another man by the name of Nelson Barbour abandoned his faith because of the Great Disappointment and sought to pursue medicine. He is quoted as saying,

“We held together until the autumn of 1844. Then, as if a raft floating in deep water should suddenly disappear from under its living burden, so our platform went from under us, and we made for shore in every direction; but our unity was gone, and, like drowning men, we caught at straws.”
His interest in bible prophecy was later rekindled, and he began to preach that Christ would return in 1873. This was actually a development of a view that had been around for about 50 years. In 1871 he published a book entitled, Evidences for the Coming of the Lord in 1873, or The Midnight Cry. Now the Barbourite movement had started. As hopefuls gathered, they quickly became disappointed. Barbour then pointed to the following year and disappointed his followers again. So what did he do? He began to teach that Christ actually did return invisibly, and would later become visible. He started a magazine in 1873 and began promoting this view. No one really cared. He later abandoned the view, but set another date. This time he said that Christ would return in 1896. That failed. So what did he do? He set another date! This time it was 1907. He would never live to see that day. He died in 1905.

Who knows what will happen as a result of Mr. Camping’s failed predictions? Could Christ return today? Yes. But despite what Miller believed and what Camping believes, the Bible is clear that the specific date of Christ’s return is not something that men can know. They both started with a horrible presupposition and fed it with even worse methods of Biblical interpretations. As a result, many Millerites fell away or fringed out into more heretical and crazy groups. Remember David Koresh? He said he was the the Son of God, the Lamb who could open the seven seals in the book of Revelation. He was the leader of the Branch Davidians, a sect of Davidian Seventh Day Adventists, a sect of Seventh Day Adventists, a sect of Millerites – a group that obsessed over the end times. Don’t get me wrong, if something is in the Bible, then it is of extreme importance. But I’ve been in groups like this. As soon as they begin to speak about these issues, it normally becomes apparent that they really haven’t searched the Scriptures concerning what they say. Instead, they only vomit back whatever someone shoved down their throat. They may not have set dates, but they engaged in the same sort of ignorance.

Critical thinking, consistency, and copiousness (the alliteration was not intentional) have largely been replaced with 1 minute google searches for things that would agree with the type of axe someone wants to grind. These characteristics are normally viewed as Pharisaical, unloving, closed-minded, or unspiritual. You can read the Bible and proclaim loudly that Camping has erred and that you may NEVER set dates… But you could easily be as ignorant. I am not speaking of ignorance in general, because everyone is ignorant of many things. I am talking about the people who would defend to the death certain beliefs they have and yet the walls used to build those theological houses are made of straw.

According to Camping, the Rapture will occur today at 6 p.m. I suppose it will be a gradual Rapture since it isn’t 6 p.m. everywhere at the same time. As Christians, we confess that we are wickedly detestable sinners in comparison to the rich holiness of God. But in His amazing mercy, He condescended and became a man. This man, Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life in the place of imperfectly sinful men. The eternal Son of God, the second person of the triune nature of God, gave His own life on the cross, to satisfy the just wrath of God that hung over our heads and that would follow us even after our own deaths. His dead body was laid in a tomb for three days. On the third day He rose from the dead, proclaiming that He was in fact the Messiah who had been foretold for hundreds of years. He appeared to the apostles, over 500 people, and a man that would later become an apostle. He ascended before His disciples and was seated at the right hand of God the Father. From there He places His enemies under His feet, the last enemy being death. He will return one day, not in “the Rapture,” but in His second coming when ALL the dead will be raised and judged. God will judge everyone based on works. For those who are in Christ, He will see the righteousness and perfect life of Christ. Those who died in their sins, apart from Christ, will be cast into the lake of fire. This isn’t the first step in Christianity. This is the core. I need this good news every single day because I sin every single day. This being said, at 6 p.m. today, what will you be saying or thinking about Camping and/or his followers? Will you laugh at them and leave them to themselves? Will you forget about them?

I don’t like speculating, but for the sake of argumentation, I will here. Perhaps the reason why Adventism spread and became what it is today, leaving a trail of false teachers and those who have abandoned Christianity, is because those who professed Christ didn’t say anything or do anything. Perhaps they avoided them. Campingites need to know the gospel. They need to know that as horribly as they will feel if the Lord should postpone His return, He even died for sins of horrible theology. He even died for false teachers. I guarantee that your worst, your most disgusting, your most horrifying sins are not greater than Jesus Christ who died on the cross for the forgiveness of such sins. If we should keep this gospel, and withhold it from those we deem do not deserve it, could there be anything more detestable? Their sin is no greater than ours. It is not hateful or judgmental to share the GOOD NEWS with those whose consciouses might be too heavy to bear.

Check it. I know their doctrines are stupid. In fact, God hates their doctrine because it is so far removed from His Word. But, telling them, “I told you so,” or “What a fool,” or “LOL” is to deceive ourselves. How easy it is for anyone to come to me daily and say, “I told you so!” or “What a fool!” or “LOL!”

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” [Luke 18:9-14]

The term Pharisee is absolutely abused all the time. People have basically used it to mean anything they want. If someone disagrees with you, you’re a Pharisee. If you love doctrine, you’re a Pharisee. If you tell someone they are wrong, you’re a Pharisee. If you believe in a monergistic soteriology, you’re a Pharisee. But this doesn’t mean that the term “Pharisee” doesn’t have a meaning. Luke 18:9-14 tells us of a Pharisee and a tax collector going to the temple to pray. Notice that Jesus is telling this parable to those who trusted that they were righteous, treating others with contempt. The Pharisee thanks God that he “isn’t like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” What is ironic is that the Pharisee was guilty of everything he listed.

> Extortioners
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.” [Matthew 23:25]

> Unjust
“”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” [Matthew 23:23]

> Adulterers
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” [Matthew 23:23]

The unfaithfulness of Israel is compared to adultery all the time throughout the Bible. 

>Like the Tax Collector
The Pharisee was right. He wasn’t like the tax collector, because the tax collector couldn’t even lift his eyes and the tax collector recognized he was a sinner. He knew that he needed mercy. In the end, it is this man who is justified. It is not because he thought anything great of himself. Rather, it was because of his faith in God for the forgiveness of sin. 

Likewise, don’t look at these Campingites as though they have somehow sinned to a depth towards which you could never sin – there is no righteousness in you. Their sin is apparent. They have bought into lies. They have spread these lies and converted thousands to the whispers of Satan and the human heart. They have squandered their lives in devotion to magically twisted eisegesis. People like this are constantly coming. False religions, false christs, false gospels, etc. I once heard that bank tellers must undergo hours of training to learn how to spot counterfeit money. They don’t do this by observing every type of fake bill because that would be impossible. Rather, they spend a ton of time touching and looking at real dollar bills. They become so familiar with it that they can easily spot a fake. Just by touching the dollar, they can instantly tell if it is fake. In the same way, it would be impossible for us to learn every false religion inside and out. Instead, we ought to spend as much time observing the truth, so the counterfeits are instantly detected.

At 7 p.m. it will be obvious to all that these people were horribly wrong. If they are even interested, they will need to relearn how to read the Bible. They will need people that will stick with them. We must call them to repent of their sins. Most importantly, they will need to hear the gospel daily just as I need the gospel daily. We are all unjust in the eyes of God. Christ is the One who is just, and the Justifier of those who believe the gospel.

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