Even as Harold Camping announced that the final spiritual judgment of the world began on May 21, he reaffirmed his belief that God passed judgment on organized churches more than two decades ago.
Camping, 89, first announced the “end of the church age” in 2002, claiming that God was no longer working through churches because of their apostasy. According to Camping, the conclusion of the “church age” came on May 21, 1988.
“Evidence was seen ever since,” Camping said Monday in his first public address after the unrealized doomsday. “If we take a snap shot of churches 50 years ago, and of our day, it’s entirely different. They have far less respect for the world, far different views on marriage and music.”
A 23-year “tribulation period” began in 1988, according to Camping, leading up to his predicted Judgment Day. His first failed prediction of the rapture on Sept. 7, 1994, was in fact the end of a six-year period in which the Holy Spirit departed from all churches and started to bring salvation outside of churches.
“The Lord did return to earth that day,” Camping said. “In September 1994, God began to evangelize the world.”
In Camping’s 2002 book, The End of the Church Age… and After,” he said that salvation no longer could be found within churches. He called on people to leave their churches, which he claimed were now controlled by Satan.
“God has commanded each and every believer to leave his local church and continue to serve God as his ambassador outside of the churches and congregations,” Camping wrote.
Dr. Thomas B. Slater, professor of New Testament at Mercer University, dismissed his claims.
"This is a man who has missed the date of the end of the world at least twice, so his understanding of how God sees the church's role is highly questionable from just that standpoint alone," he told The Christian Post. "Second, I would rather doubt that any one person is in position to state how God wants to use any institution, whether it’s the church or the government or whatever."
While Slater acknowledged that some of Camping’s indictments of the modern church have credence, people cannot expect churches to be without flaws.
“I constantly tell people that they should not look for a perfect institution created by imperfect human beings,” Slater said. “For people who love their religious traditions, they should call them out whenever they do wrong.”
When faced with problems within their churches, Slater said people must look inside themselves to determine what they should do. “How much do you love your denomination, your religious tradition, and how much are you willing to give of yourself to try to make it better?” Slater asked. “Each person has to answer that question for himself or herself.”
One of Camping’s biggest issues with churches is their interpretation of the Bible. Camping asserts that the Bible is the ultimate authority, but churches have turned against Scripture and subverted its teachings. Since churches do not recognize the signs pointing to the impending end of time, he wrote, “action on the part of the reader is required” – the action being to abandon one’s church and “complete the task of world evangelism.”
Family Radio, of which Camping is president, still has posted on its website “A Solemn Warning to Those in the Churches,” saying that those who deny the impending end of the world will be destroyed.
After Camping initially announced the “end of the church age,” the Reformed Church in the U.S. convened a committee to respond to Camping’s views of churches to “address his errors and warn those who follow him.”
In a report, the Reformed Church refuted Camping, noting that while he claimed that churches are the ones flouting the Bible, he gave himself “extra-biblical authority.” As the chosen interpreter of Scripture, he has appointed himself “the ultimate spiritual authority on earth,” making him guilty of the same evil he places on organized religion.
On May 21, Camping’s appointed Judgment Day came and went. So Camping has revised again, saying that while the day did not bring the expected “physical coming,” it began a “spiritual judgment” of the Earth leading up to the world’s end on Oct. 21.
People have been reaching out to Camping’s followers in the aftermath, hoping to bring them back to church.
Redeemer Broadcasting, a Christian radio network in New York formerly affiliated with Family Radio, wrote in an open letter posted on the station’s website: “All ‘true believers’ of Harold Camping were instructed to leave their churches, and perhaps you were one of them who obeyed this satanic teaching from Mr. Camping.
“Now is the time to repent and turn to Christ. Please return to church.”