From a radio studio in Oakland, California, 88-year-old Harold Camping is announcing the end of the world: May 21, 2011. Jesus will return at that time, the founder of Family Radio asserts.
Using a combination of prophetic Scriptures and calculations derived from numbers he’s found in Scripture, Camping, who claims 70 years of Bible study, is setting a date.
That he had failed once before, when his September 6, 1994, date came and went without an apocalypse, doesn’t faze Camping. He allowed, in a San Francisco Chronicle interview, that “he may have made a mathematical error.” But this time Camping says he is certain.
For many years, decades even, Camping and his radio stations were a bulwark of basic, gospel-centered teaching; many Adventists enjoyed the on-air Bible readings and programs of old hymns. Starting with his 1994 prediction, Camping has veered away from the evangelical center, taking many followers with him.
One could suggest many reasons for this, but perhaps the lack of accountability for Camping—he’s the top executive at Family Radio and there’s no one to challenge his word—is the greatest deficit here. Had there been a pool of leaders from whom Camping could get counsel, he might have stayed on the straight and narrow.
Fortunately, we who claim the legacy of William Miller learned, albeit through bitter experience, the danger of date setting. We understand Jesus’ words about His return: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt. 24:36).
Seventh-day Adventist Christians can take comfort in Jesus’ promise, and not the date-setting of any person, no matter how much learning they profess.
Mark A. Kellner is news editor of the
Adventist Review. This article was published March 24, 2011.