Why does Harold Camping still have a platform at Family Radio and why are his theories about the end of the world, the Rapture and the return of Jesus Christ still popular among some Christians even though the 90-year-old "student of the Bible" has been wrong, repeatedly?
According to Tim Lucas, lead pastor of Liquid Church in Morristown, N.J., natural disasters, global unrest and economic turmoil often prompt believers to question if the end is nigh. Lucas cautions, however, that as such events unfold and prophetic claims are made, Christians need to remember three key things when it comes to evaluating "prophecies" made by people like Camping.
The first of three key questions believers should ask themselves when it comes to evaluating people like Camping who claim to have special knowledge about the end times, Lucas says, is if the individual is "smarter than Jesus."
Lucas recently preached a message on this very topic after questions about Camping's rapture date continually came upon in his congregation.
In an email to The Christian Post, the Liquid Church lead pastor explained, "The red flag with folks like Camping is that – no matter how well-intentioned and sincere they may be – their obsession with specific dates and times is directly at odds with Jesus' own words on the matter."
Noting Matthew 24:36, the N.J. minister said, "Concerning His return and the Day of Judgment, Jesus flatly stated: 'No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.'"
Based on Matthew 24:36 and 44, Christians can be absolutely sure that any "prophesied" date, such as May 21, Oct. 21 or Dec. 12, 2012, will not be the day of Christ's return, he insisted.
Camping counters critics who point to the Bible passages referenced above by insisting that, beginning with creation, which supposedly dates to 11,013 B.C., it is indeed possible to pinpoint an exact date when it comes to Christ's return because God has opened up the Scriptures to believers.
Lucas warned, "That is dangerous territory and should raise flags for any Christian who takes Jesus' words literally. By claiming to have 'cracked the code' or unlocked the 'secrets of Scripture,' they inadvertently elevate their own knowledge above the mind of Christ Himself!"
A second point Lucas told CP that he touched on in his sermon was the issue of "birth pangs" and how Christians have a tendency to hype "modern calamities" to the point of generating "fear in the nonbelieving world."
Lucas said that if believers read Matthew 24:6-8 in context, where Jesus speaks of "wars and rumors of wars" and "famines and earthquakes" being the "beginning of birth pains," they will realize that Christ is describing "signs of 'New Life'... not the 'End of Days!' "
"I tell our people to imagine they're in a hospital and hear screams coming from down the hall. It makes a world of difference if the sign over the door reads 'Maternity' rather than 'Oncology' doesn't it?" Lucas noted.
He added, "In Jesus' mind, all this global turbulence is about birth – not death! The Kingdom of God is on its way and Jesus is in the process of making all things new, according to Revelation. This is reason for hope – not hand-wringing!"
Finally, Lucas said, instead of trying to predict Christ's return, believers should be preparing for his return. Instead of becoming fixated on escaping the world, Christians seek ways to "engage this present world."
"We're to do what Jesus did when He came to Earth the first time: heal the sick; feed the hungry; care for the poor. Reach out with love and compassion to serve those in need, just as Jesus did," the pastor said. "We’re to prepare the world for Jesus' return by loving our neighbors … not scaring them with doomsday predictions."
According to Camping's Family Radio website, "The whole world, with the exception of those who are presently saved (the elect), are under the judgment of God, and will be annihilated together with the whole physical world on October 21, 2011."
Making such decisive statements about God's judgment and annihilation of unbelievers does not help to "truly engage a hurting world that is cynical and suspicious of 'fear-mongering' evangelism,” Lucas said.