The Lord Jesus is coming. Our recent celebration of Christmas reminded us of this coming. His first coming points to the second, demands the second, and is fulfilled only in the second. The justification of God, the redemption of the church, and the judgment of this world accomplished by His coming in lowliness must be perfected by His coming in glory.
This coming will be bodily and visible. At His coming, the Lord Jesus will raise the dead, judge all men and angels, and renew the creation. This will be the end of this world and its history.
Christ’s coming is the meaning of 1993 as it is the meaning of all history. Exactly what the new year holds for the nations, for the church, and for ourselves personally, we do not know. But we know that it serves the coming of the Lord. Whatever takes place prepares us and all things for the coming of Christ.
Expectancy of the Lords coming must dominate all the life and labor of His church in 1993. Scripture calls the church to do all her work and live all her life with a view to the coming of Christ. She must preach the gospel with the purpose that all the elect be brought to repentance, so that the day of the Lord may come (II Pet. 3:9), and with the purpose that a witness be given to all the nations, so that the end may come (Matt. 24:14). She must administer the sacraments in order to show the Lord’s death “till he come” (I Cor. 11:26). She must discipline the impenitent sinner, in her fellowship, so that his spirit may be saved “in the day of the Lord Jesus” (I Cor. 5:5).
The saints must care for each other, avoiding fighting, and must purify themselves, abstaining from gluttonous and drunken revelry, against the day that the Lord will come to reward the faithful and to punish the evil (Matt. 24:42-51).
For a church or a church member to forget the coming of Christ, or even to suppose secretly that the Lord delays His coming, is fatal.
There must ring in our soul in 1993 (the preaching must see to it!) the word of Christ, “Behold, I come; surely, I come.”
It is the prophecy of Mr. Harold Camping that Christ will come in 1994. Mr. Camping is a conservative expositor of the Bible with a large following among Reformed Christians in the United States and Canada, mainly through his radio broadcasts. He makes his startling prediction in a book published late last year, 1994? (New York: Vantage Press, Inc.).
The question mark in the book’s title is misleading. The author confidently foretells Jesus’ return and the end of the world in September, 1994. The exact time will be the period between September 15 and September 27 of that year: “Last Day and return of Christ sometime on or between: September 15, 1994: Beginning of 1994 Jubilee year, and September 27, 1994: Last Day of Feast of Tabernacles” (p. 531).
The great tribulation that will precede the coming of Christ has already begun. Mr. Camping informs us that it began on May 21, 1988, when the gospel era ended. The great tribulation, therefore, does not consist of persecution of the church. Rather, it consists of Satan’s assault on all churches so that they become apostate (pp. 515, 516).
The basis for this prophecy is Mr. Camping’s discovery in the Bible of all the information hidden there by the Holy Spirit to reveal 1994 as the time of the end of the world. The Spirit has also given Harold Camping the gift to interpret this otherwise unknown and unknowable information about the end. Camping’s book is some 500 pages of biblical ages, dates, and numbers with their meanings and connections. In contrast with its exciting theme and its vivid cover, the book is as dull as a volume of mathematics.
Camping has figured out that 1994 is an Old Testament year of jubilee. In fact, it is the 68th year of jubilee. Sixty-eight, according to Mr. Camping, is a number with a highly significant spiritual meaning. For it is the product of 2 times 2 times 17. The number 2 symbolizes the church, and the number 17 symbolizes heaven. 1994, therefore, is the year of jubilee in which the church goes to heaven. September 15, 1994 will be the Old Testament Day of Atonement, which will also begin the year of jubilee. But September 20-27, 1994 will be the Feast of Tabernacles of the Old Testament. The conclusion is that Christ will return between September 15 and September 27, 1994.
Staring the maker of this prediction in the face is the declaration by Christ Himself that no creature, Himself as a man included, knows the exact time of the end. “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is” (Mark 13:32, 33). Camping solves this problem by distinguishing between “day and . . . hour,” on the one hand, and “year and month,” on the other hand. He is not prophesying day and hour but year, month, and week.
But this effort to escape the clear teaching of Christ that the time of the end is not revealed is an act of desperation. “Ye know not when the time is,” in Mark 13:33, makes plain that “day and… hour,” in verse 32, refers to any and every definite date, whether hour, day, month, or year. The Reformed creed, which is authoritative for every Reformed believer, correctly explains that the time of the end is “unknown to all creatures” (Belgic Confession, Art. 37).
The entire project of attempting to determine from the Bible the date of Christ’s return is disobedience to the Lord’s express warning against this very thing.
Surely, if Christ Himself as to His human nature is ignorant of the time of His return, the time of His return cannot be revealed in the Bible, for it is the Spirit of Christ who inspired the Bible. Christ would know His own revelation.
If the project itself is disobedience, the manner in which it is conducted is foolishness. 1994? is a classic example of allegorical exegesis – the extremest allegorical exegesis. Allegorical exegesis is interpretation of Scripture that pays no attention to the common, ordinary meaning of the words and thoughts in Scripture. The interpreter, usually motivated by great reverence for Scripture, finds spiritual meanings everywhere according to his own fancy. It is arbitrary, lawless, fanciful interpretation of the Word of God.
In 1994?, the pagan Cyrus is a type of Christ; wicked Ahasuerus “typifies God as the supreme ruler of the world”; everything about Paul’s shipwreck has a spiritual meaning, including the 276 persons involved; and the numbers 2, 17, 23, and 68 have symbolic significance. Also of great spiritual meaning are the number 11 in Deuteronomy 1:2; the 2,000 cubits of Joshua 3:3, 4; the 2,000 swine of Mark 5:1-17; the 200 cubits of John 21:8; and the 153 fish of John 21:11.
The arbitrary nature of Mr. Camping’s exegesis is evident in his explanation of Daniel 9:27. Having committed himself to a literal interpretation of the 70 weeks (each week being a literal week of years, which itself is a mistake), Camping suddenly makes the second half of the 70th week a figurative description of the entire period from the death of Christ to the end of the world. The change from a literal to a figurative explanation of one and the same phrase occurs in the middle of averse. Seventy weeks is literal in the first half of the verse, but figurative in the second half (cf. pp. 381-404).
This kind of interpretation of Scripture is illegitimate and dangerous in the extreme. The Reformation opposed it vehemently. “To allegorize is to juggle with Scripture,” wrote Luther. Calvin was of the same mind:
We must entirely reject the allegories of Origen, and of others like him, which Satan, with the deepest subtlety, has endeavored to introduce into the Church, for the purpose of rendering the doctrine of Scripture ambiguous and destitute of all certainty and firmness.
The practice of such interpretation (exegesis) and the theory of interpretation (hermeneutics) that lies behind it effectively deny the doctrine of Scripture as much as does the new hermeneutic of modernism. If everything can mean anything everything means nothing.
This interpretation of the Bible, in fact, like the new hermeneutic of theological modernism, takes the Bible out of the hands of the saints. Indeed, it takes the Bible out of the hands of everyone except the particular interpreter himself. There is no man on earth except Mr. Camping who ever would have interpreted the Bible to arrive at 1994 as the date of the Lord’s return. There is no man on earth who can follow his allegorizing as he engages in this interpretation. All must simply accept his explanation.
When at the end of the book Mr. Camping says to his reader, “There is no time left to trust your pastor or your church. You must trust only the Bible,” he means, “Trust only the Bible as I interpret it for you.” Apparently, he has many disciples who do exactly this. Hardly less disquieting to me than the astounding prophecy itself is the readiness of many devout, Reformed Christians to believe it.
Prediction of the date of Christ’s coming as September 15-27, 1994 involves Mr. Camping in other, serious doctrinal errors. There will be no human Antichrist. The Antichrist of Scripture is Satan himself. The church of the end-time does not face persecution. The great tribulation is rather the spiritual falling away of the churches. Since 1988, there is no longer a true and faithful church of Jesus Christ on earth. All churches have become apostate. The practical implications of these errors for the saints are staggering.
By no means the least serious of his false teachings is that doctrine that is fundamental to the prediction of September, 1994 as the date of the end of the world. This is a doctrine that is assumed, rather than argued. But it is very definitely taught. I refer to the notion that the Old Testament feasts continue into the New Testament, not by having been spiritually fulfilled in Christ, but literally. September 15, 1994 will be “the Day of Atonement,” beginning “the 1994 Jubilee year” (p. 520). September 20-27, 1994 will be “the days of the Feast of Tabernacles for the year 1994” (p. 525). Such is the literal continuance of the Old Testament feasts that Mr. Camping can compute the date of the end of the world by means of this. 1994 will be the 68th literal year of Old Testament jubilee.
This makes Jews out of us Christians. It brings us back to the weak and beggarly elements that Paul warned against in Galatians 4. The book of Hebrews is devoted to the truth that all the Old Testament feasts were so fulfilled in Christ as to have ceased at His coming. The use of them must be abolished among Christians, including the use of them, to calculate future dates. There are no longer “days of the Feast of Tabernacles.” The feast has been fulfilled spiritually in Christ, is a living reality in the church by faith, and will be perfected in the Day of Christ.
Mr. Harold Camping claims to be a prophet. In keeping with Amos 3:7, God has revealed to him, and to him alone, the most wonderful future event of all: the coming of Christ and the end of the world. To Mr. Camping has been given the privilege of unsealing at the end the words of the secret that have been closed up until now (cf. Dan. 12:9).
As a Reformed believer and minister of the Word, I too claim to be a prophet. In the name of Jesus Christ, I declare with absolute certainty that Jesus will not come and the world will not end in 1994. As with all genuine prophecy, this is based on God’s own Word. First, His coming in 1994 would contradict Jesus’ own words inMark 13 that no one, not even Harold Camping, knows the time of the end. If Camping is right, Jesus was wrong.
Second, by coming in 1994 Jesus would sanction allegorical exegesis to the dishonoring of Holy Scripture.
Third, far too much must still take place before the coming of Jesus Christ for this coming to be in 1994. Antichrist must yet establish his kingdom of man, rule all the world, and persecute the true church (cf. II Thess. 2and Rev. 13). This will happen soon, but not in a year and a half.
Two prophecies, diametrically opposite.
The mark of false prophecy is that “the thing follow not, nor come to pass” (Deut. 18:21, 22).
I have written the following announcement. It is to be published in the Standard Bearer of October 1, 1994.
Christ did not come, nor did the world end, last month, as Harold Camping prophesied in 1991 in his book, 1994?. I now call on Mr. Camping to repent of his sin of disobeying Christ by predicting the date of Christ’s coming and to repudiate the very idea of such predictions. I also call on him to recognize the error of his allegorical exegesis and to direct his followers to a true Reformed church where sound, grammatical historical- spiritual exegesis is the basis of all preaching and teaching.