Perhaps you’ve seen a billboard like this around your town. Harold Camping, Bible teacher and owner of 55 Family Radio stations, believes that he has mathematically figured out when the end of the world is going to take place.
Camping had made an earlier effort at predicting the Second Coming in his book 1994? Pastor Stephen C. Meyers reviewed 1994? and says:
The main glue that holds Camping’s book together is numerology: that part of ancient mysticism that endeavors to find hidden truths locked in literal terminology through numbers. Mystical num bers are the keys that allegedly unlock the hidden truths concealed in literal language. The basic theory this system operates on is that God created a perfect world and a perfect word (the Bible) which exhibit precise numerical and symmetrical design.
Camping’s interpretation of John 21:1-14 displays his use of numerology. Jesus tells the disciples who were about 200 cubits out in the Sea of Galilee to throw their net on the right side of the boat. The result was a catch of 153 fish. According to Camping the Scriptures are teaching that the 200 cubits repre sent about 2,000 years between the first and second comings of Christ (p. 503). Since Camping states that the most likely date for the birth of Christ is October 4, 7 B.C. when the Jubilee Trumpet allegedly sounded (p. 418), one needs only to add 2,000 years minus one year for the year 0 and out pops 1994. Concerning the 153 fish, Camping points out that the number 153 equals 3 times 3 times 17: “The number three signifies the purpose of God whereas the number seventeen signifies heaven. Thus we can learn that [the] purpose of God is to bring all believers that are caught’ by the Gospel into heaven” (p. 504). Would it not be hermeneutically better to go to Matthew 24 where Jesus clearly teaches about the end of the age instead of trying to mystically find hidden secrets behind clear narrative prose?
Camping was wrong in 1994 and is most likely wrong about May 21, 2011. I sure hope so. My daughter celebrates her one-year wedding anniversary on May 22nd, and we’re looking forward to our second grandchild to be born in August. We’ll blog more on this topic in the coming days — including 88 Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1988!
Discussion Questions: Why is date-setting such a seriously misguided venture? How should the worldwide Body of Christ respond to people like Camping?