(Photo: AP Images)
With Family Radio's countdown clock down to one day before the rapture, Christian leaders are coming out and making it loud and clear: the end of the world is not happening on Saturday.
"He (Harold Camping) is wrong," evangelist Greg Laurie from Southern California stated simply on his blog Friday.
But what has some pastors grieving is not so much the judgment day prediction by Camping but the message he's spreading as he warns the public about the last days.
"The problem with Harold Camping today is not date fixing or even bad hermeneutics. He's lost the Gospel. He's lost Christ," said W. Robert Godfrey, president and professor of church history at Westminster Seminary California.
Godfrey remembers Camping as his Bible teacher during his high school years.
At that time, Camping "was a rock solid Reformed guy," the evangelical theologian recalled during a roundtable discussion, hosted by Ligonier Ministries on Thursday. That's what makes this all the more tragic, he lamented.
Evangelicals have been concerned with Camping's teachings for decades now. He first stirred controversy when he predicted the end of the world would come in 1994. Then in 2002, Camping announced the end of the church age. He claimed that God was no longer blessing and using local churches because of their apostasy and that believers should quit the church. The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, of which Godfrey is a member, readily rejected this, affirming that "the church is Christ's bride which he has promised to cherish and preserve until he comes again."
Now, Camping's latest prediction about 2011 being the year God destroys the world has irked evangelicals again.
"Choosing a date is foolish in my judgment," Godfrey stated. "But it's not inherently heretical or calamitous by itself.
"The great tragedy today is that when he believes the world is coming to an end, what he's preaching and teaching is 'you need to repent and call on God and God might save you.' And in that message, there's no reference to Christ and no reference to the cross."
Once a Bible teacher who "did a lot of good for a lot of people" at one point, Camping is now spreading false teachings and it breaks Godfrey's heart.
"My prayer is that on May 22, they (Camping and his followers) will repent and come back to Christ and to the cross and to the church," he said.
Camping, 89, president of Family Radio, has no doubt that the earth will shake on May 21 and Christians will be swept up to heaven while the rest of the population endures five months of "horrible," destructive events.
He and his supporters have put up more than 2,000 billboards across the United States, warning the public about judgment day.
Family Radio states, "Judgment day is feared by the world and is the day that God will destroy the world because of the sins of mankind.
"The Bible has given us absolute proof that the year 2011 is the end of the world."
Camping told Reuters he plans to spend May 21 with his wife near a TV or radio to get news on what's happening on the other side of the world as the apocalypse unfolds.
While he waits for the end of the world to begin, others are brushing off the prediction.
Retired pastor Glenn Lee Hill from Rocky Mount, N.C., assured, "This is a false prediction, a misunderstanding of God's Word, and no biblical prophecy will be fulfilled on this coming Saturday, May 21, 2011. You can relax!"
Judgment day may not be on Saturday, but Christian theologians and pastors still caution that Jesus will return soon. Despite not knowing the actual date, Christians are being challenged to live in such a way that when Christ does return, they would be ready to meet the Lord face to face.
"The Bible says we need to 'Prepare to meet our God' (Amos 4:12)," Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship emphasized. "We are reminded of how we are to be living as Believers as we await Christ’s return in."