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Activist Faith

People keep asking my view on the Harold Camping issue. Here is a repost of a recent article I did for the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute. It briefly explains the math involved and the fallacies of Camping view.

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After failed date-setting attempts in 1994 and now May 21, 2011, Harold Camping remains undaunted, teaching new mathematical calculations leading to October 21, 2011 as the final judgment. What is he teaching? And what does the Bible really say about when the end will come?

First, let’s address the content of what Camping is teaching. On his organization’s website, his rationale for the end of the world on May 21, 2011 (now adjusted to October 21) bases his end-times prediction on two biblical passages: Genesis 7:4 and 2 Peter 3:8.

In Genesis 7:4, God tells Moses, “Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.” Camping equates these seven days with 2 Peter 3:8, which teaches, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

Basic idea: seven days equals 7,000 years from Noah’s Flood which ends on May 21, 2011 (or now October 21?). More precisely, Camping uses a combination of biblical records and extrabiblical history to calculate that 4990 B.C. was the year of the biblical Noah’s Flood and that 4990 + 2011 (on our modern calendar) equals 7,000 years.

So 2011 is the year, but what about the day or the hour? Here, Camping’s article calculates:

Amazingly, May 21, 2011 is the 17th day of the 2nd month of the Biblical calendar of our day. Remember, the flood waters also began on the 17th day of the 2nd month, in the year 4990 B.C.

Those are the fact, but are they accurate? First, we must note that Camping has now falsely predicted the end of the world not only once (in 1994), but twice! This alone highlights that these predictions should be considered false teaching and information no person should accept as reputable.

Second, however, is the math (or Camping’s interpretation of the math) even correct? While the Bible does offer several genealogies, most Old Testament scholars agree that the “family trees” in the Genesis 10 Table of Nations account are not an exact father-to-son list but only mention select family names to connect Noah to Abraham, the next major leader discussed in Genesis. If so, then any calculation of an exact date of the biblical Noah’s Flood can only be an estimate.

Third, even in the unlikely case the Table of Nations account in Genesis is an exact generation-by-generation family tree, the closest any person could calculate would be within a few years. Why? Adding the years of each person in the list does not always account for situation in which one year from the end of one person’s life overlapped with the next. Again, even if Camping is on the right track, he would only be able to estimate the exact number of years.

Fourth, Camping’s interpretation of seven days as seven thousand years of time from the Flood until the End is a theological interpretation, not a mathematical one. No major Christian theologian of our era even agrees that this combination of passages is accurate. To build a theology that determines the final day of the world is inherently weak and flawed from the start.

To answer our second section of this article—When does the Bible say the end will come?—we look not to Harold Camping, but to the words of Jesus himself. In Mark 13:32-33 we read:

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.

If Jesus, the Son of God, claimed to not know the day or the hour, how can Camping or any person claim to have this knowledge?

The Bible teaches Jesus will return for his people (John 14:1-3 and others), but does not give a timeline. Instead, we are called to be alert (Mark 13:33-36) and to live holy lives before God and others.

Our goal as followers of Jesus should be to live prepared for Christ’s “any moment” return by choosing to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and to live in such a way that we will hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:23). That is a message that is both accurate and biblical.

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DILLON BURROUGHS is an author, activist, and co-founder of Activist Faith. Dillon served in Haiti following the epic 2010 earthquake and has investigated modern slavery in the US and internationally. His books include Undefending ChristianityNot in My Town (with Charles J. Powell), and Thirst No More (October). Discover more at ActivistFaith.org.

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