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Harold Camping's Paper:
"Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End?"
By J. Patrick Griffin, Jr.
Gerardo Andres Cortez
Dear brethren In Christ,
You are likely aware of Harold Camping and Family Radio, headquartered in Oakland, California. Although Camping misled many, and injured the faith of some (children in particular), through his teaching about the return of our Lord in his book "1994?", he continues to have an influence among many individual Christians on account of his access to the airwaves and his authoritative, pseudo-spiritual manner of speaking. He has recently published a paper (you may or may not be aware) titled "Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End?", in which he announces that God has commanded all Christians everywhere to leave their churches. Disturbingly, he is gaining the ear of some very naive Christians.
Patrick Griffin, my close friend and co-laborer of many years in the Lord, has developed a 47-page Response to Camping's most recent effort to mislead Christians. In this Response, Mr. Griffin methodically exposes the falsity of Camping's doctrine, and demonstrates (I believe conclusively) that Camping is unworthy of being taken seriously as a teacher among the Christians.
Harold Camping has painfully misled Christians in the past, and is now raising the stakes in his attack upon the saints in Christ.
We are offering this response for free circulation among the churches, with one condition, that the text not be altered from its original, as we believe it is a highly edifying study. Among its other advantages, the Response provides a Scriptural demonstration of the relationship between the external churches and the eternal Body of Christ, and of the need for Christians to belong to a local church, to submit to their elders, and to passionately support the congregation, even when they have significant objections to certain issues within the congregation. Unless a church is actually apostate, a local Christian should consistently give his or her support.
Author's Preface page i
Page 1 A Survey of Camping's Claim About the End of the Church Age.
Part II. A Reasoned Response in the Light of Scripture.
1. Does 1Peter 4:17 tell us the church age has come to an end?
4. Camping's interpretation of Revelation chapter seven.
6. The Scriptures give us no reason for believing the office of elder is no longer valid.
7. If we receive Camping's teaching, what would it mean for us if he is wrong?
8. The relationship of the external churches to the eternal Body of Christ.
9. Teachers who deny the Lord who bought them.
10. Supporting our Local Church.
11. The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.
Part III Case Examples of Camping's Method of Bible Interpretation. Page 30
1. Does Camping produce a single Scripture in support of his claim thatGod is commanding Christians to leave their churches? His treatment of:
b. Amos 8:4
d. Acts 24-28
Postscript The Anointing of the Spirit and the Role of the Teacher Page 40
Author's Preface Page i
On Friday morning, February 15, I took a seat in a waiting-room and read the recent, 24-page paper by Harold Camping, titled: "Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End?"
Being startled by the magnitude of his claims regarding the churches of our day, I decided to write a structured response to his paper. It occurred to me that a considerable number of Christians, due to Mr. Camping's many years of experience as a teacher, and to his daily presence on the airwaves, would be uncertain as to how to respond to the forceful claims he is making. After relating the contents of Camping's paper to my co-worker, Gerardo Cortez, we began a series of extended discussions on how best to arrange a written response to Camping's doctrine. Gerardo's input was crucial, and I heartily acknowledge the value of his contribution.
This writing is an offering to the Christians, particularly to those who may feel a measure of alarm by the doctrine which the well-known Harold Camping is currently proclaiming in print and over the air. I have asked my close and trusted friends, Fred Mendrin and David Coughlan, to assist me in circulating this Response for the sake of the saints who might in any way benefit from a straightforward examination of Camping's teaching, and from a clarification of the issues in the light of Scripture.
Part One of this Response is a survey of the major claims which Camping has made in his paper. Part Two is a progressive examination of these claims in the clear light of Scripture. Part Three is a demonstration and evaluation of Camping's method of Bible interpretation. I have aimed for simplicity and transparency in the development of this Response, as it is my conviction that Bible teaching becomes complicated only when the teacher is unfamiliar with his knowledge, or when the teacher is simply unqualified to teach. But the reader alone will be the judge of whether or not I have done my job effectively.
Response To Camping
A Survey Of Camping's Claims About the End Of the Church Age.
Camping's 24-page paper is divided into four chapters and one addendum. His central claim is that the era of God's work in the churches has ended, and that we are in the period called the great tribulation. According to this doctrine, the gathering of Christians into churches is now condemned by God, and all true Christians are commanded to flee from their churches.
He loosely defines a "church" as a congregation structured according to the general New Testament model involving elders and deacons, and observing the ordinances of water baptism and the Lord's supper.
Camping teaches that the power of the Holy Spirit is no longer accompanying the preaching of the Gospel in any church on the earth, and that the only effective Gospel ministries are those which have separated themselves from any and every church.
According to Camping's doctrine, even in churches where the true Gospel is still faithfully preached, and where the congregations are striving for faithfulness to the word of God in every respect, the Holy Spirit is not in their midst and no one is being saved through their labors, or even through the labors of the missionaries sent out by the churches. Camping promotes his own "Family Radio" as a genuine, non-church Gospel ministry which God is blessing.
His paper begins:
"What is going on? Certainly something strange is happening. On the one hand we see churches everywhere becoming more and more apostate. Yet on the other hand we see a ministry like Family Radio becoming more and more useful to the Lord in sending the true Gospel into the world."
While most Christians would agree that multitudes of churches have fearfully compromised the truth of God, and many (even among the largest) are now completely apostate, Camping differs radically in his claim that every single church on the earth today has had its lampstand removed and is now under the cursing, rather than the blessing, of God. According to Harold Camping, no unsaved person can now become saved by the Gospel-sharing of anyone who belongs to a church. His paper abounds with categorical allegations, such as the following:
"Virtually every one of us, as we look at the church we attend, and as we look at the other churches in our city, deplore what we are seeing ... Indeed any spiritually minded believer must admit something drastic has happened and is happening in even the most conservative of the churches.
How can it be then that a ministry like Family Radio appears to be increasingly blessed as it is able to share the true Gospel with an increasingly large percentage of the world's population... (I)f we are truly honest with ourselves, and with the Word of God, we know that something dreadful is happening in the churches and congregations of our day-However, there appears to be a major contradiction between the Biblical prediction of the expectation of an increasingly dead church and the actuality of a robust healthy presentation of the Gospel by means of an organization like Family Radio" (p.1,2).
Camping explains that God, having foreseen both the population explosion of modern times and the end of the church age, allowed mankind to make the technological advances by which non-church radio and television ministries could complete the mandate to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (1k 16:15). Family Radio, of course, is one of the true Gospel ministries which God has appointed to complete the mission which the church has now forfeited.
He claims the offices of pastor, elder, and deacon are no longer viable, and that any ministry which maintains these offices, and any ministry which continues observing the ordinances of water baptism and the Lord's supper, is a willing component in the apostate superstructure called the church:
"If a congregation decides to be obedient to this command [to flee from the church] they can reorganize their congregation from a church congregation, to become a fellowship of believers. The elders will no longer be elders. The deacons will no longer be deacons. The Pastor will no longer be pastor. In other words no individuals will have spiritual rule over the congregation... God has brought judgment upon the institution of the church. Thus God has effectively ended the possibility of the observance of the New Testament ceremonial laws - water baptism and the Lord's supper" (p.16; Addendum, p.7).
Camping believes we have entered the period called "the great tribulation," which means, according to Camping, that the Gospel-work of the churches is finished and they are not; being judged:
"We have learned that ... we have finally come to that time which God calls the time of the great tribulation. It is the time when the work of the corporate external church has been finished... But now the time has come when the era of the church age has come to an end... And simultaneously with the end of the church age God has brought His judgment upon the churches" (Addendum, p.1).
He warns Christian parents that they are risking the damnation of their children by keeping them in a local church, since no one can any longer be saved by the preaching of the Gospel within a church:
"The Holy Spirit is no longer working in the congregations. The true Gospel may still be faithfully preached. Those who are saved may experience blessings. But what about the infants and the children. If the Holy Spirit is not applying the Word of God by giving these children spiritual ears they will remain spiritually dead. How awful this is. This is a frightening truth that parents must face. If they truly love their children and are praying for their salvation they must consider this problem very seriously...[God] tells us the Holy Spirit has been taken from the temple [meaning, the churches] and we are to come out of it. Therefore if we have a concern for the salvation of our children we should want to obey God's command to flee from the temple ... It is for our own spiritual safety and the spiritual welfare of our children that we are to depart out" (Addendum, p.4,5).
Camping insists that none of the missionaries currently being sent out by the churches are actually bearing fruit:
"There may still exist congregations in which true believers are still hearing faithful preaching ... But any children or adults that are not saved cannot be saved [so long as they remain in the church] ... In that church [that is, a church that is still preaching the true Gospel] there will be a famine of hearing the Word of God. Likewise the missionary that is sent out by that church will see no true fruit on his labors. No matter how faithful his preaching may be there will be a famine of hearing the Word of God" (Addendum, p.5).
Camping claims that even if a church strives valiantly to uphold the truth of God in both its teaching and its practice, it remains useless to God and is under the Divine judgment that has now come upon all the churches:
"But the question must be raised; If a church earnestly tries to remove all of its wrong doctrines ... and if it still has true believers within it, why cannot it continue as a viable God blessed congregation" (Addendum, p.1).
Camping's answer as to why not a single church can continue to be blessed by God in its Gospel-ministry serves as a useful illustration of the method of Bible interpretation which he generally employs to build his doctrines and "prove" his points (see Part III of this Response).
A reasoned Response In the Light of Scripture
This writing is an examination of the evidence, which Camping presents to support his claim that "the era of the church age has ended."
How can we know that the church age has ended, and we are in the period called the great tribulation? Camping points us to 1Peter 4:17, which reads:
"For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?"
Whatever Peter is talking about, he clearly applies it to his own day no less than to ours:
"For the time has come ...and if it begins with us."
But Camping gives his own interpretation:
"The event of this judgment on the churches is a terrible blow to them.-Therefore God speaks of this event as a time of great tribulation" (p.8).
According to Camping, Peter is talking about the great tribulation which, he says, begins at the end of the church age, when the Spirit of God allegedly withdraws from all of the churches and gives them over to judgment. We are now, Camping claims, in that period called the great tribulation.
"The very solemn question every believer must face is, Has the period of great tribulation in Matt 24:21 begun. If we believe we are in that time of history is there clear evidence that this is so? While a number of Scriptures detail the character of the great tribulation, there are two that are especially in evidence so that we need have no doubt that we have arrived to that final event" (p.11).
He begins by quoting Matt 24:24, which warns of false Christs and false prophets who will "show great signs and wonders." In commenting on this verse, Camping writes:
"Never before in all of church history has there been such an interest in signs and wonders, miracles, such as we see today. All over the world there is an intense interest in this kind of activity. This evidence alone assures us that we are living in the period of the great tribulation" (p.12).
As much as I am aware, it would seem to be true that the present-day fascination with signs and wonders among certain types of churches is unprecedented in the history of the churches. This fascination has been on the rise since at least the year 1960, when the charismatic movement began its launch toward the mainstream. There are many, many very godly and fruitful, zealous Christians in the charismatic churches (I am not a charismatic, and I have serious Scriptural objections to some of their doctrines and practices). It is also true that, in spite of the many godly and zealous Christians exalting the name of Christ in these churches, the charismatic movement is infested with charlatans and magicians who are deceiving multitudes with their signs and wonders. Yet this has been going on for forty years, and an overwhelming majority of the churches in the world are not charismatic (as a general rule, the charismatic ministries receive more public attention than those which are not charismatic, due to the sensationalism of some of the leaders - but the number of charismatic Christians is far fewer than the number of non-charismatic Christians).
With these facts before us, we must seriously question Camping's claim that the charismatics' fascination with signs and wonders "assures us that we are living in the period of the great tribulation", which, according to Camping, means the church age
has ended and all Christians are commanded by God to leave their churches.
If Camping's claim is true, at what point during the past 40 years did we enter this tribulation? This is important since Camping claims that no one can be saved by hearing the Gospel in the churches during the great tribulation. If Camping's doctrine were true, then at whatever point this tribulation began, all those who believe they have been saved through the Gospel ministries of the churches are not actually saved. This is quite an allegation. So we need to ask: Is this fascination with signs and wonders among a sub-culture within Christianity really sufficient to "assure us that we are living in the period of the great tribulation"? On an issue of such enormous importance, we would certainly be wise to require a considerably stronger demonstration of evidence in support of the doctrine.
Furthermore, if it were true that we are in the period of the great tribulation, where do the Scriptures inform us that we are to leave our churches, and that we are to no longer gather into churches, during this period?
Camping presents a second argument in support of his claim:
"A second evidence is the world wide evidence of people falling backward. The churches that practice this miracle call it "being slain in the Spirit." This miracle was foretold in Revelation
13...In verse 13 we read:
"And he [the beast from the abyss] doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men"" (p.12).
Camping insists that the beast from the abyss is Satan, which in itself is a very dubious interpretation. Building on this interpretation, Camping teaches that the phenomena of people falling backward in some of the charismatic churches is the fulfillment of the prophecy about the beast calling down fire from heaven.
"God gave Satan a demonstration that showed that causing someone to fall backward was equivalent to calling down fire from heaven... [When the soldiers came to the Garden of Gethsemene to arrest Him], Jesus following the example of Elijah or of God in Revelation 20:10 should have called for fire to come down and destroy these wicked men. But Jesus had to be bound and taken to be crucified ... However, to show that He had the power to call down fire from heaven and destroy them, when He answered them Jesus caused all of these wicked men to fall backward to the ground. Satan, therefore, was an eyewitness to the fact that causing people to fall backward to the ground is equivalent to calling down fire from heaven. Thus, this miracle of people falling backward to the ground which is occurring all over the world is clear evidence that we are now in the great tribulation period of Revelation 13 and Matthew 24" (p.12).
This is completely ludicrous. Who can honestly say they believe this? Will we entrust our souls to a doctrine built on such whimsical interpretations of the Scriptures? From the outset it is clear that Camping has us on very shaky ground.
He presents another argument to show that we are not only in the period of the great tribulation, but in what he calls "the second part of the great tribulation":
"There is another startling evidence that shows us that we are in the second part of the great tribulation. Remember Matt 24:22 declared:
"And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.""
Camping relates this verse to the seventh chapter of Revelation, which speaks of the sealing of those who will be preserved by the grace of God during the great tribulation.
"We can be certain that the 144000 are the complete fullness of all those [who] would become saved by the activity of the churches during the New Testament era...But after this there would be a great multitude saved. We read in Revelation 7:9: "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands"" (p.13).
Camping explains that the prophetic number, "144,000", signifies the full number of those who are saved during the age in which the churches are bringing the Gospel to the world, and that the "great multitude" refers to those who are saved by non-church Gospel ministries, such as Family Radio, during the great tribulation period after the church age has ended.
"Significantly at this time in history when the world's population is exploding, God has provided means by which the true Gospel can be heralded forth all over the world. This is particularly true as the Gospel is sent out by radio, by satellite, by Internet ... Because we witness this phenomena by a ministry such as Family Radio which in no sense is under the authority of the church and which tries to be as faithful to the Bible as possible, we can know that we are in that time of the great tribulation" (p.13).
Again, Camping has by no means provided a trustworthy demonstration of the connection between the Scripture and his interpretation of the Scripture. He says the 144,000 are those saved during the church age, and the great multitude are those saved after the end of the church age. This is somehow made to relate to the saying in Matthew about the days of the tribulation being shortened for the sake of the elect. His linking of these verses is a bit baffling, and his interpretation of Revelation chapter seven is certainly unconvincing. On an issue of such stupendous consequence, can a Christian actually feel comfortable placing his or her confidence in these interpretations? Would there be any godly wisdom at all in the acceptance of this doctrine on the basis of the "evidences" Camping has provided?
At the very least, we can say that Camping has not provided sufficient reasons
for accepting his teaching. He insists that God is commanding us to leave our churches, and to no longer belong to a church at all. He tells us that we must no longer observe the Lord's supper or water baptism, or have regard for the offices of pastor, elder and deacon. These ordinances and these offices, he claims, were valid only during the church age, which he says has now ended.
But what does- the Bible itself tell us?
The Bible records the words of Jesus during His final meal with the apostles:
"In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me"" -1Cor 11:25.
The next verse further charges us:
"For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes"-vs 26.
Harold Camping has announced that God is commanding all Christians everywhere to depart from the assemblies which continue observing the ordinances of the Lord's supper and water baptism. Since these ordinances were given to the churches, and, according to Camping, the church age has ended, Camping insists that any assembly which observes these ordinances is under judgment and is not being used by God. But the Scripture plainly charges us to observe the Lord's supper till He comes. Camping's response to this is, again, typical of the method he employs to support his doctrines.
He begins by quoting Leviticus 6:12-13:
"And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings. The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out."
Here it is commanded that "the fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out." But in 587 BC, the temple itself was destroyed by the Babylonians as an act of judgment from God. At this time, of course, the fire on the altar went out. Since the temple under the old covenant was a type of the greater temple (the church) under the new covenant, and since Camping believes that every church on the earth is now being judged by God, he infers that the ordinances given to the churches must now cease just as the sacrificial system ceased when the temple was judged. But there is a serious problem with this leap of interpretation. The Scripture does not charge us to observe the Lord's supper until the church age has ended. We are clearly charged to observe this ordinance till He comes. If the Scripture had said, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till the church age has ended", we would then have an actual Scriptural support for Camping's teaching. But the Scriptures do not say this. Not only is Camping's teaching based on an imaginative leap of interpretation, it is also in conflict with the clear command of the Bible.
As we carefully examine Camping's teaching, point by point, the problems accumulate. Along with the Lord's supper, he also claims that any and every assembly which observes the ordinance of water baptism has been abandoned by God. He teaches that when missionaries are sent out to preach the Gospel, they must not baptize, since this is an ordinance given to the church, and the Holy Spirit is no longer involved in the Gospel ministry of even the most faithful of the churches. But his teaching, once again, is a fearful contradiction of what the Scriptures plainly teach:
"And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preachthe gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned -Mk 16:15-16.
In giving this commission to preach and baptize, Christ does not stipulate that Christians should baptize only until the time of the great tribulation. He commands that until every creature has heard the Gospel, those who believe are to be baptized. This is explained all the more emphatically in the Book of Matthew:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded
you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" -28:19-20. Whoever believes, from every nation until the end of the age, is "to observe all things that I have commanded you." Among these "all things" is the ordinance of baptism, as well as the Lord's supper. We have no Biblical reason for assuming this "end of the age" is anything other than the end of the history of the world at the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. According to the plain sayings of Scripture, with no need for fancy schemes of interpretation, or for any "interpretation" at all, so long as there is a Gospel ministry it is to be accompanied by the ordinances of water baptism and the Lord's supper.
Page 14 Index
Water baptism does not save anyone, but it is a public confession of an inner faith. It is a form of public confession which the Lord Himself has commanded. This is similar to the commandment of physical circumcision during the Old Testament ages since the time of Abraham. Circumcision itself made no one in Israel righteous, but every righteous man in Israel observed the ordinance of circumcision. Jesus Himself was circumcised in obedience to this commandment. Likewise, the ordinance of baptism itself makes no one righteous, yet those who are righteous through faith in Christ will eagerly seek to be water baptized as a public expression of their faith in Christ.
It is true that millions of unsaved and ungodly people are water baptized as a matter of routine in many of today's churches, but this does not render the ordinance itself less viable for all who come to Christ in genuine faith and repentance. Neither did the ordinance of circumcision become any less obligatory on account of the multitudes of insincere Israelites who received the circumcision. The carnal circumcision remained obligatory until the triumph of Messiah, regardless of how apostate Israel had become.
Under the new covenant, the ordinance of water baptism is to accompany the preaching of the Gospel until every creature has heard the Gospel, regardless of how apostate many of the churches have become and will become.
The Bible gives us no reason for believing "the era of the church age has ended." It is true that many churches are apostate, and that many more will become so. But it is equally true that the Christians who flee the apostate assemblies will gather
into faithful churches that will continue the ministry of the Gospel throughout the world, and that these faithful Christians will obey the word of God by observing the ordinances of water baptism and the Lord's supper.
Page 15 index
Camping also claims that assemblies which retain the offices of pastor, elder or deacon are condemned. He calls on Christians everywhere to leave their churches and to form assemblies which do not recognize such offices.
"The elders will no longer be elders. The deacons will no longer be deacons. The Pastor will no longer be pastor."
Camping teaches that Christians are no longer to submit to the spiritual authority of even the wise and faithful elders of faithful churches.
"In other words no individuals will have spiritual rule over the congregation."
Since the Scriptures repeatedly command us to honor the rule of our elders in Christ, Camping's doctrine becomes- particularly dangerous at this point. He has by no means made his case that "the era of the church age has ended," or even that the church age will ever end. The Bible gives us no reason for believing a time will come, or has come, in which Christians are commanded to no longer form and maintain churches. The ordinances given to the churches are established by Divine decree until the coming of Christ, and the Scriptures nowhere tell us a time will come in which assemblies of Christians must no longer have elders. A straightforward survey of the Scriptures illustrates the seriousness of what is at stake:
"Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine" -1Tim 5:17.
Christians who have been influenced by Camping's ministry should soberly consider such sayings in the Scriptures. The Bible tells us that Christians should honor "the elders who rule well," yet Camping teaches that this command must no longer be regarded by true Christians because, he claims, the church age has ended and the office of elder is no longer regarded by God. This is a very dangerous teaching. If Camping is wrong, those who embrace his teaching will be found in extreme rebellion against the word of God.
"Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice ... For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft" -1Sam 15:22-23.
In regard to obedience and the spiritual rule of the elders, the Scripture commands us:
"Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you...Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow...Greet all those who rule over you" -Heb 13:17,7,24.
"And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their works' sake" -1Thess 5:12-13.
Do Camping's interpretations provide us with trustworthy reasons for believing these Scriptures are no longer applicable? If we receive Camping's teaching, what would it mean for us if he is wrong? Everything is at stake, and Christians should not be willing to receive a teaching which depends on creative interpretations rather than on clear and consistent demonstrations of what the Scriptures are saying about themselves. Is Camping honestly and transparently comparing Scripture with Scripture, or is he comparing private interpretations with private interpretations?
Where do the Scriptures tell us the age of the church will end, and that a time will come, or has come, in which God commands us to no longer belong to an assembly that observes the ordinances of water baptism and the Lord's supper, or the offices of elder, pastor and deacon? Camping has taken us to numerous verses and has told us these verses "mean" such things. But with so much at stake, are we safe in placing our confidence in a teaching which depends not on what we see the Scriptures plainly telling us, but rather on what a teacher tells us these verses mean?
The Apostle Paul charged the elders of the local church in Ephesus:
"Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock among which he Holy Spirit has made you overseers [elders], to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" -Acts 20:28. Christians are called the sheep of Christ, "the flock" which gathers to His name: "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold [explaining to the Jewish believers that the Gentiles also will be brought in through faith in Him]; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd" -Jn 10:16.
As Christ is the "one Teacher" (Mt 23:8) who appoints teachers in His churches (Eph 4:11), so is He the "one Shepherd" who appoints shepherds over His churches. As Peter writes:
"The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder...Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers ... and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders" -1Pet 5:1-5a.
How can we miss the ramification of these verses? The elders are to shepherd the church of God until the Chief Shepherd appears. Until He appears, Christians are commanded to "submit yourselves to your elders." Will we now dismiss this commandment on the strength of Camping's interpretations?
It is true that many churches are apostate, and that many more will become apostate. A Christian is under no spiritual obligation to submit to the elders of an apostate assembly. A ministry which rejects the New Testament instructions to the churches is not a faithful ministry, and Christians who in any way support such a ministry should give serious evaluation to their role in its perpetuation.
Page 18 Index
Camping confuses the issue by his misuse of the distinction between the visible, external churches and the actual spiritual Body of Christ consisting of all the saints. This spiritual Body is the eternal church whose members are registered in heaven:
"But you have come to ... the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven" -Heb 12:22-23.
All who have been spiritually baptized into the eternal Body of Christ have their names registered in heaven with the church of the firstborn:
"For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free - and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" -1Cor 12:13.
This church, whose members are registered in heaven, is the eternal Body and Bride of Christ:
"And He [God] has put all things under His [Christ's] feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all" -Eph 1:22-23 (see also: Eph 5:25-26,30-32).
After Simon Peter confessed to Jesus, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God", Jesus declared to Peter that on the strength of this confession, which He likened to a "rock", the church would be built:
"(0)n this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" -Mt 16:18.
It is through the labors of the disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit who is sent in the name of Jesus (Jn 14:26; Acts 1:8), that the Lord is building His church: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ... he who does not gather with Me [into the flock, the church], scatters abroad" -Mt 28:19; 12:30.
"Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" ...And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" -Acts 2:38,47.
What is the relationship between the external churches and "the church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven"?
We can also look at this in another way; What is the relationship of water baptism to the spiritual baptism into the Body of Christ ("the church of the firstborn")?
Looking again at the words of Paul to the elders of the local church in Ephesus:
"Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" -Acts 20:28.
From the outset, we observe that the local, external church is spoken of in Scripture as "the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." The particular local church of which Paul was speaking was the church in Ephesus. It is also clear
from the passage that not everyone in this church was saved. As Paul says to them: "Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves" -vs 30.
He is speaking of men who are members of this church. Through water baptism (and, of course, the confession of Jesus Christ that must attend the act of water baptism), they had qualified for the official registry of "the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." They were not saved, but they had entered into a formal relationship with the new covenant. Having entered into this formal relationship through water baptism, and having thereby become members of the church which God has bought with His blood, through their eventual rejection of the doctrine of Christ they will deny the Lord who bought them. Peter also writes of such teachers:Page 20 Index
"But there were also false prophets among the people [of Old Testament times], even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways" -2Pet 2:1-2a.
Whereas Peter is delivering a general prophecy about teachers who will rise up and sow destruction among the churches of God, the prophecy of Paul is specifically concerned with the church of God at Ephesus, which he calls "the flock":
"For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves" -Acts 20:29-30.
The Scripture speaks of this church of God in Ephesus as "the flock," and elsewhere in Scripture the Lord explains there is only one flock (Jn 10:16). Obviously the eternal flock consists of all who are "registered in heaven", yet the external churches, which include many who are not actually saved, and who are therefore not registered in heaven, are still referred to as "the flock." The external churches, which routinely include members who are not truly saved, are referred to in Scripture as "the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." To state this in another way: There are members of the external churches who, having confessed to Christ outwardly through water baptism without having actually experienced the spiritual baptism into the church of those who are registered in heaven, are still identified in Scripture as members of the church of God which He bought with His blood. So the relationship between the external churches and the eternal Body of Christ is quite profound.
Camping's claim that God is now commanding all Christians to leave their churches, and to no longer gather as a church, is very serious. Everything is at stake. If Camping is wrong, he is calling people to destruction. Since he is the one making the claim, the burden of proof is on him. Does he make his case?
Those who have entered into a formal relationship with the new covenant by means of water baptism and church membership are sanctified by this covenant. They are not truly saved unless they have experienced the spiritual baptism into the church of those who are registered in heaven, yet they are still sanctified, or set apart from those who have not publicly confessed to Christ.
Under the old covenant, the entire nation of Israel was sanctified: "You are a holy people to the Lord your God." The entire population of Israel was called "the children of the Lord your God" (Dt 14:1), and through their experiences in the Red Sea and the Wilderness they are said to have partaken of Christ:
"Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ" -1Cor 10:1-4.
In-a formal sense, through their encounters under Moses (who served as a testimony of the coming ministry-of Jesus Christ: Heb 3:5), the Israelites tasted of Christ. Yet the next verse in the passage attests:
"But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness" -vs 5.
Many of the members of this nation, although sanctified by circumcision, the passage through the Red Sea, and/or participation in the sacred rites of the temple, were not actually godly people. As the Israelite, Paul, later explained: "They are not all Israel who are of Israel" (Rom 9:6). On one level they were all Israelites, yet'-on another-level they were not. But even the insincere Israelites were sanctified by their formal relationship to the covenant, and they shared in the blessing of citizenship in the holy congregation of Israel.
Likewise, there are many who are sanctified by the new covenant, being members of the church of God which He bought with His blood, and are called Christians, and yet they are destined to trample this covenant underfoot and to deny the Lord who bought them.
"Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?" -Heb 10:29.
Although they are sanctified by the blood of the covenant through their public confession and church membership, they are not truly saved. As their spiritual presumption and arrogance grows, and they are emboldened to repudiate the doctrine of Christ, they are treating the covenant as a common (unholy) thing, trampling on the name of Jesus and insulting the Spirit of grace. Having publicly entered a relationship with the covenant established by the blood of Christ, taking their place as members in the church which He purchased with His blood, in the time of their exposure they rise up to deny the Lord who bought them.
When Christians assemble for the communion of the bread and the cup, they are making an outward expression of their spiritual communion in Christ.
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread" -1 Cor 10:16-17.
Many who share in the Lord's supper are not actually saved, but through their participation in this solemn observance they are confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, just as they do in the baptism of water. By participating in these ordinances with genuine Christians, they are experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit and the powers of the age to come, and they are held accountable for this.
This was prefigured in the priestly feasting on the sacrifices under the old covenant:
"Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?" -1Cor 10:18.
Many of the priests were not genuine saints, yet their feasting on the sacrifices linked them formally to the altar, so that their festal communion was a participation in the temple of God. Under the new covenant, the sharing of the bread and the cup is a formal participation in the true sacrifice prefigured in sacrifices on the previous altar. Those who approach the blood of the covenant unworthily are accountable for this:
"Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord-For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself ... For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep" -1Cor 11:27,29-30. It is possible to experience the Holy Spirit without actually being reborn: "Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit" -1Cor 12:3.
There are many who have confessed that Jesus is Lord, and yet they are not saved (as in Mt 7:21-23, where He says to them who often called Him Lord: "I never knew you"). The Old Testament records many instances in which the Holy Spirit temporarily descended upon a person, yet no one was actually reborn because the Holy Spirit had not yet been given in such a measure. There are also recorded instances in which individuals spoke by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and yet they were not saints at all. A most dramatic demonstration of this is with the wayward prophet, Balaam:
"How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced? ...
Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his [Israel's]! ... The utterance of Balsam the son of Beor, the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened, the utterance of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty...
I see Him [the coming Christ], but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel...0ut of Jacob One shall have dominion" -Numbers 23:8,10; 24:3-4,17,19.
There are few confessions in the Bible more spectacular than this, yet Balaam was an enemy of God who was later slain by the Israelites at the command of God (Num 31:8). In the churches, the teachers who rise up and deny the Lord who bought them are likened by Peter to this ancient prophet, Balaam:
"They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for- his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man's voice restrained the madness of the prophet" -2Pet 2:15-16.
An experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit is not necessarily one of rebirth and salvation. This is attested quite forcefully in the remarkable passage of Hebrews chapter six, which shows that an experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit and of the good word of God (which Balaam clearly experienced), is not necessarily a sign of salvation. While it is true that all who are born again do experience these things, it is not true that everyone who experiences these things is born again. Verses 4-6 of that chapter read:
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame."
Read out of context, this can be a very confusing passage, as it appears to suggest that some who are truly saved will fall away and be damned. Such a concept would be radically inconsistent with what is attested in the remainder of the Bible. Further light is shed on this passage by the stipulation of verse nine: "But beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner."
Although an extended treatment of this passage would bog down my effort to answer Camping's paper in a compact manner, it is crucial to observe how this latter verse attests that the spiritual experiences listed in verses 4-5 are not necessarily a sign of salvation. Many people, through their involvement with the fellowship of the church, and through their participation in the solemn and holy ordinances of the Lord's supper and water baptism, taste the presence of the Holy Spirit, of the good word of God, and of the powers of the age to come, without ever being reborn and thereby saved.
Membership in a local church, unless that church has had its lampstand removed, is a formal involvement with the covenant established by the blood of the Son of God. Any person who seeks to destroy a local church of God will be destroyed by God. Although many individual churches have had their lampstand removed, so that they are cut off from the church of God, the Scriptures give us no reason for believing a time will come, or has come, in which there will be no lampstands on the earth at all. We have no reason for believing the era of the church age has ended, or that it will ever end. As more and more churches become apostate, the genuine Christians within those churches will depart and join themselves to faithful congregations, or they will form faithful churches of their own.
An assembly can be very small and yet still be a church. In the First Epistle to the Corinthians, and also in the Epistle to the Romans, Paul writes of a church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla:
"The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house" -1Cor 16:19 (see also, Romans 16:3-5).
The rejection of an apostate church is a godly act. A rejection of the concept of the external church itself is a denial of the Lord who purchased the church with His own blood. A doctrine against the churches of God is a trampling of the blood of the covenant and an insult to the Spirit of grace who dwells in the midst of the churches.
The parable of the wheat and the tares is very useful in our consideration of the doctrine of Harold Camping.
In this parable, the wheat are the true children of God, the tares are the disobedient, the field is the world, and the harvest is the end of the age. Yet as we think our way carefully through this parable, it is evident that the primary concern is with the churches rather than with the world at large.
"The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, "Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?" He said to them, "An enemy has done this"" -Mt 13:24-28a.
In its broadest sense, the field represents the world. Yet the world has always been filled with tares. The surprise to the servants of the owner of the field was not that tares existed in the world, but rather that tares had sprouted up among the wheat.
The Lord refers to the wheat as "the sons of the kingdom" (vs 38), so that the concern is with the "sons of the wicked one" sprouting up in the midst of the sons of the kingdom. In verses 40-41, Jesus explains:
"Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the-fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness."
The kingdom of Christ extends through all of heaven and earth:
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" -Mt 28:18.
From the throne of God (Rev 12:5), Christ is currently reigning as King of kings over the creation of God, and will continue to reign in this current form until the last of His enemies are subdued:
"For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death" -1Cor 15:25-26.
At His return, Death itself, and all who belong to Death, will be cast eternally from the presence of Christ and the saints.
"(T)he hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation" -Jn 5:28-29.
"I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death" -Rev 1:18.
"The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them ... Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death" -Rev 20:13-14.
The current reign of Jesus Christ extends over all of creation, so that He is called "the ruler over the kings of the earth" (Rev 1:5). Clearly the kingdom is His, and extends throughout heaven and earth, although this reign remains hidden in a mystery until the day of His manifestation, and can therefore only be understood by the mind of faith (this spiritual knowledge appears as foolishness to the natural mind). At His return, all things that offend on the earth, under the earth, and in the heavenlies, will be snatched away and cast into the outer darkness:
"(S)o it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness."
This is the parable of the wheat and the tares in its broadest sense. But we are observing how there is a more primary sense to the parable, so that the concern being addressed is with the sons of the wicked one sprouting up in the midst of the sons of the kingdom.
Although the Lord's kingdom extends throughout the entire earth, it resides more specifically with the saints, to whom the kingdom is entrusted:
"Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" -Lk 12:32.
The world is filled with tares which do not come near to the churches, but what should be done about the tares sprouting up among the wheat? The parable explains:
"So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' He said to them,- 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?' But he said, "No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn"'" -vss 27-30.
Church discipline, reproof, and correction is a firmly mandated necessity among the fellowship of the saints. Christians are also commanded to withdraw from those who claim to be Christians but conduct themselves in a manner which flagrantly dishonors the confession of Jesus. At the same time, this parable is a warning against overzealousness in attempting to cleanse the churches. In this parable, the servants are told to "let both grow- together until the harvest." This harvest "is the end of the age" (vs 39). At the time of the harvest, Christ Himself will stamp out the apostate churches and snatch away every false Christian from the faithful churches. But Harold Camping has announced that God is commanding Christians to leave all the churches, even the faithful ones, and that Christians are to no longer regard the Biblically-mandated structure and ordinances of "the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." Camping's doctrine is beyond overzealousness. His doctrine is in flagrant opposition to the truth of God set forth in the Bible.
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Case Examples Of Camping's Method Of Bible Interpretation
How can we know that God is commanding Christians everywhere to leave their churches, and is forbidding us to form new churches or to belong to a church at all? Camping explains that we can know this because the Jerusalem temple was a type of the church and Jesus prophesied that in the judgment upon Israel and its temple "not one stone will be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down" (Mt 24:2). Since Camping believes the church is now being judged, and since the Jerusalem temple was a type of the church, he infers that not one church can be left standing spiritually: "God declares there is not to be left one stone upon another. This means that God is declaring that it is His intention that there is not to be any churches left to represent God's kingdom. If a church insists that it is still recognized by God then it is still trying to have a small part in the temple of God. The believers (the stones) in that church are still in place in the temple of God. But that cannot be because God declares there will not be left one stone upon another. This means that God's usage of the churches and congregations has come to an end" (Addendum, p.1).
It is difficult to understand how anyone could take this interpretation seriously, as it is based on no meaningful demonstration from the Scripture itself, but is rather based entirely upon the teacher's telling us, "This means that". Yet this is quite typical of Camping's method of teaching on this and on other issues.
He goes on to insist that Jerusalem and Judea in the time of Jesus represent the churches of our day, and that when Jesus gave the warning to flee "when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies," He was warning the Christians of today that we must flee from the churches. Luke 21:20-22 reads:
"And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto."
In commenting on these verses, Camping states:
"Jerusalem or Judea represent all of the New Testament churches and denominations. When we see, as we do see, Satan's massive attack on churches all over the world we are to depart out... No longer are you to be under the spiritual rulership of the church.
This command is given because God is finished with the era of churches being used of God to evangelize...The message should be clear. We must remove ourself from the church" (p.14).
Camping follows these comments with a quotation from chapter 17 of Luke:
"In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away" -vs 31a.
Camping explains that in this verse the housetop represents "the bringing of the Gospel," and the house represents "the church" (.p.14). All who are on the housetop (that is, the genuine Christians who bring the true Gospel) must now flee from the house (that is, the church), without taking the risk of pausing to gather anything they might have valued within the church. To show that the housetop represents the bringing of the Gospel, he quotes Luke 12:3:
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"Therefore, whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops."
This is certainly a desperate quotation. Who can honestly believe these two verses are related in the way which Harold Camping brings them together? By this method of Bible interpretation we can make anything in the Bible say anything we want it to say. Camping is a good storyteller with a fertile imagination, but he has consistently shown himself to be an untrustworthy expositor of the holy Scriptures. On page 14 of his paper, Camping also cites the incident with Lot's wife to tell us we must flee from our church and not look back. His comment suggests that if we retain a fondness in our heart for the church which we are commanded to leave, as Lot's wife did for the city she was fleeing, we will be judged along with the church even though we are fleeing from it. Harold Camping's desire to destroy the churches of God is fiercely intense. He wishes not only to steal away with the disciples of the flock, but also to kill in our hearts the love we have for the flock. This contrasts so dramatically with the confession of Paul:
"(I)n weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness - besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches" -2Cor- 11:2728.
In telling us that God is commanding us to flee even from the faithful churches, Camping quotes Amos 8:11 to show that no one can any longer be saved in a church - even if that church is striving to faithfully preach the true Gospel. The verse from Amos reads:
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord."
He claims this verse is telling us that God has sent a famine on the churches of our day, so that no one within a church today is able to hear the Gospel. He interprets Mt 24:19 as a warning that we are subjecting our children to damnation if we do not remove them from the church:
"And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days."
Commenting on this verse, Camping explains that even in churches where the true Gospel is being faithfully preached, no unsaved person can become saved because the Holy Spirit has sent a famine of hearing in all of the churches:
"The terrible truth is that children born in that congregation may be under the hearing of good preaching. But if the Holy Spirit is not in the midst of that congregation they will not become saved. That family has a serious problem that can only be remedied by leaving the congregation ... This is because there is a famine of hearing the Word of God. The Holy Spirit is no longer working in the congregations...
We are to be obedient to God's commands. He tells us the Holy Spirit has been taken from the temple and we are to come out of it. Therefore if we have a concern for the salvation of our children we should want to obey God's command to flee from the temple" (Addendum, p.4).
According to Harold Camping, regardless of how faithfully the Gospel may be preached in any given church, or by any missionary sent by a church, those who are listening will not be given ears to truly hear the message because the Spirit has departed and thereby created a famine of hearing. In claiming that this verse from Amos applies to our own day, he stipulates that it applies only to those in the churches, not to those outside of the churches. He offers nothing to justify this stipulation, but it is certainly convenient for his purposes.
This is the art of arbitrary Bible interpretation in its most outrageous form. Camping is basically making his own knowledge as he goes along, simply creating whatever is needed to shore up his doctrine from one moment to the next.
He supplements his interpretation of Amos 8:11 by teaching that the unbelieving Jews of Acts chapters 24-28 represent the churches of our day. Although Paul was faithfully preaching the true Gospel to them, the Holy Spirit did not give these particular Jews ears to hear, so that they served as a sign of how no one in the churches today can spiritually hear the preaching of the Gospel. According to Harold Camping, all of the people who have received the testimony of Jesus in the churches of our day must now be told they are not truly saved, but if they received the testimony of Jesus while listening to Family Radio they are truly saved. In part, Camping's paper is quite a pitch of advertising.
Since "the church" is not specifically mentioned in the 28th chapter of Acts, Camping claims that Paul, in this chapter, is serving as a sign of those today who bring the Gospel after having fled from the churches:
"Significantly we learn the same lesson from Acts 28. In that chapter Paul is a picture of all who have been cast out of the churches and congregations...Yet in Acts 28 the church is not mentioned at all. This is so because spiritually God is using that occasion as a portrait of the time of the great tribulation when the church era has ended...
The problem is that of a famine of the hearing of the Word of God. Returning to Acts 28 we learn that the Jews who represent the churches and congregations do not have spiritual ears to hear.
On the other hand we read in Acts 28 of Paul freely preaching to the Gentiles. That must be understood to indicate that even though Christ is no longer using the churches to bring in the elect, He is still saving all over the world. But
it is done so with God no longer using the corporate external church to bring the Word. He is still using believers, but these believers are no longer a part of the corporate external church" (Addendum, p.5,6).
To further "prove" that the era of the church age has ended, he links two New Testament passages to God's pronouncement of judgment upon ancient Israel for its "high places" of false worship. He begins by quoting Leviticus 26:30, with an emphasis on the reference to the high places:
"And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcasses upon the carcasses of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you."
Camping follows this with a meandering series of comments on the Babylonian Captivity, in which he arbitrarily and erroneously marks the beginning of the 70-year period with the death of King Josiah in 609 BC (the Scriptures clearly attest that this prophetically important period commenced with the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians (2Chron 36:19-21; 2Kings 25:8-21; Jeremiah 52:12-27), and concluded with the rebuilding of the temple in "the sixth year of King Darius" (Ezra 6:15), thereby lasting from the autumn of 587 until the late winter of 516, for a period of 70 years and several months). After his comments on the Captivity, which he claims was a sign of the flight of true Christians from the churches of our day, Camping returns to the issue of the high places and links them to a passage from 2Corinthians:
"(F)or the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds: casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled" -vss 4-6.
Camping explains that the high places of false worship in ancient Israel correspond to the false doctrines among the churches (which is not necessarily an implausible connection: Christians are commanded to "cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God" - which is a charge to Christians not only to aggressively discipline our own thinking, but also to expose and dismiss destructive spiritual imaginations such as those set forth in the teaching ministry of Harold Camping). Whatever the merits or demerits of making this association between the high places of ancient Israel and the false doctrines among the churches, Camping's extrapolation from his initial hypothesis is altogether without merit. He observes how God judged the nation of Israel after bearing long with them on the matter of the high places, and that when He did judge the nation He completely destroyed the temple. Since that ancient temple was a type of the greater temple of the church, Camping infers that God is now judging the church for its high places, and that not a single church can escape this judgment.
He then calls attention to verse six of chapter ten: "(H)aving in a readiness to revenge all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled."
Camping interprets this as meaning the church has fulfilled its work of bringing the Gospel to the world, and now that this work is finished ("when your obedience is fulfilled") God is judging the church for its disobedience ("having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience"). This is quite a leap of interpretation, but Camping declares it dogmatically. He then links this interpretation to the death of the two witnesses as described in chapter eleven of Revelation:
"(A)nd when they shall have finished their testimony the beast that ascended out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them and shall overcome them and shall kill them" -vs 7.
Camping tells us the two witnesses represent the churches being judged by God for their disobedience after they have completed the time of their testimony:
"Therefore, when the two witnesses are killed because their work had been finished it meant that the church is dead - the candlestick no longer can give light. That is, God is no longer using the church to bring the Gospel" (p.8).
But is it not clear in the passage itself that these two witnesses are being persecuted for their faithfulness to God, rather than being judged by God for unfaithfulness? Actually, an honest reading of the passage itself makes it very clear that this is the case. The two witnesses are persecuted by the beast for their faithfulness to the testimony of Jesus Christ. They are not being judged by God. Camping's interpretation of this passage is particularly shocking, and his linking of the passage to the verse from 2Corinthians chapter ten is shamefully artificial.
Camping uses the Bible the way a skilled evolutionist uses nature - an impressive command of individual bits of data, but a perverse scheme of interpretation involving that data. Camping impresses people with his ability to quote Scriptures, with his emphasis on the Bible as the authoritative source of knowledge in all matters of doctrine, and with his skill in weaving articulate stories that bring the verses together in an impressively imaginative scheme of interpretation. He "wows" people with these skills, and with his dogmatic, pseudo-spiritual manner of speaking, and he thereby lures well-meaning Christians into his deceptions.
Camping's doctrine is built on private and highly imaginative interpretations of the Bible, and in his most recent paper he has, not for the first time, set forth a teaching that is profoundly misleading and fearfully destructive to all who would receive it.
Early in the last decade he lured thousands of earnest Christians into believing he had demonstrated the return of Christ would occur in September of 1994• I am personally acquainted with numerous very godly Christians who, to this day, avoid the study and discussion of Bible prophecy due to their traumatic emotional experience after having bought into Camping's bizarre teaching of ten years ago (his book, "1994?", was published in 1992 and sponsored by Family Radio). I personally know of children who had believed Camping's doctrine because their parents and elders assured them it was true, and some of these children, having now grown into adults, remain unable to overcome their traumatic disappointment, and to this day they harbor a certain disillusionment with the message of Jesus Christ (they remain good, decent, and adorable people, yet they have lost the intensity of their zeal after entrusting their young minds to the false doctrine of Harold Camping and Family Radio).
If Camping, in his recent paper, had intensified the call for Christians to come out of the apostate churches, and to join themselves only to faithful churches, his doctrine would have gone forth in the power of the word of God. But for at least the past ten years (as witnessed not only in his false teaching about Christ's return in 1994, but also in his unscriptural teaching on the Sabbath), Camping's doctrine has been frightfully unfaithful to the word of God. His recent announcement that none of the churches on the earth are being used by God, and that Christians should consider the church age to be over, is an alarming development in the spiritual descent of this man who has openly declared himself an enemy of the churches of God which He purchased with His blood.
To call Christians away from apostate churches is an act of obedience to the word of God. To teach that God has commanded all Christians to no longer belong to a church at all, and to refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of even the most faithful churches, is an act of spiritual rebellion against the truth of God.
Camping's doctrine is destructive, and it is evil. Both he, and the ministry he speaks for, should be shunned to the uttermost by all who fear the living God.
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When Christ ascended on high, He received from God a bounty to distribute among His church. To each individual He has dispensed a measure of ability and opportunity for the work of building up the saints - that is, for the work of edifying the church of God in Christ:
"But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore He says:
"When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men" ...
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine ... but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joiined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" -Eph 4.:7-16.
Among the gifts which Christ dispenses are those which equip a person for the ministry of teaching. Certainly all Christians are teachers in some measure, yet there are individuals whose calling is uniquely in this area. A teacher in the Body of Christ is called to labor, by means of doctrine and example, for the equipping of the saints for their own work of ministry, that each of those who are taught may go forward enriched for the work of building up the church and, thereby, preparing the Bride for the marriage of the Lamb:
"Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.
And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints" -Rev 19:7-8.
For this work of preparing the Bride, God has given to each a measure of ability and opportunity, and a fearsome responsibility for faithfully and prudently administering this measure:
"As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen" -1Pet 4:10-11.
The gift of teaching comes with a sobering caveat: "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment" -James 3:1.
A teacher minimizes the danger by adhering strictly to the word of God. By carefully comparing Scripture with Scripture, the knowledge of the Bible comes forth from the Bible itself. The teacher's role is not to position himself as a mediator between the Christian and the Bible, and thereby to serve as an interpreter of the Scriptures. Every Christian is endowed with an anointing, and is able to learn directly from the Bible, so that we do not need anyone to interpret the Scriptures for us. We need teachers who will show us, in straightforward and transparent fashion, what the Bible says about itself. The proper role of a teacher is to the side, assisting the learner in making a direct encounter with what the Scriptures are saying about the Scriptures.
Nothing which is learned should be made to depend on the explanation of the teacher, but rather on verifiable demonstrations of the knowledge itself. Good teaching depends on transparent demonstrations of what the Scriptures say about the Scriptures, so that those who learn can now take the knowledge as their own and share it confidently with others. But when the teaching is made to depend on private interpretations, complicated explanations, and unverifiable connections, those who learn cannot be certain they have encountered genuine knowledge. Unfortunately, this illegitimate form of teaching is often tolerated by Christians who then grow confused as to why there are so many different forms of teaching, so many differing interpretations of the Scriptures.
This unauthorized form of teaching was already proliferating among the early Christians, and was addressed forcefully by the Apostle John:
"But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that an one teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him" -1Jn 2:27.
In the Body of Christ, there are individuals to whom the Spirit has given the gift of teaching. Yet a teacher must know his proper place. There is a level at which no one is authorized to present himself as a teacher - this is the level at which Christ, through the Spirit, is our teacher:
"But you, do not be called 'Rabbi' [teacher]; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren ... But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things..."-Mt 23:8; Jn 14:26a.
All who have received the Holy Spirit are endowed with the anointing that "teaches you all things," so that at this level a Christian "does not need that anyone teach you." Human teachers usurp this anointing when they attempt to function as mediators between the Christians and the Bible, rather than standing to the side and assisting the learners in making direct and organized encounters with the pure knowledge itself. When teachers abuse their position by substituting secret interpretations in the place of openly transparent demonstrations, the Christians are encountering private creations of knowledge mingled with the Scriptures. A teacher who seeks such a position between the Christians and the Bible is violating a fundamental structure of the new covenant, which confers upon each believer a direct encounter with God in Christ.
"I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them" -Heb 8:10b-11.
A teacher who seeks to interpret the word of God for us is thereby attempting to know God on our behalf. This is a usurping of the Christians' anointing, and is not authorized by the Spirit of God. If Christians would assertively insist that their teachers verify each point in the doctrine by means of straightforward and transparent demonstrations, rather than being permitted to cast their own creations of knowledge across the pages of the Bible, foreign doctrines would lose their ease of entrance among us, and a great deal of the disunity of knowledge among the saints would be healed. But so long as Christians are tolerating teachers who are fond of telling us, "This verse means that," and "That verse means this", without showing us plainly and verifiably from the Scriptures "why" we should believe the verse has this meaning, many in the Body of Christ will continue to struggle as "children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine."
When we were children, we spoke as children, and we understood and thought as children. As we grow, the time comes for us to put away childish things. Harold Camping has circulated a paper titled, "Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End?" As with his book, "1994?", the question mark attached to the title of his work is a subterfuge. Once we read past the title we encounter no hint that a "question" is being examined. Throughout the 24 pages of his paper, he repeatedly and dogmatically insists that God has commanded us to leave our churches. There is no "question" involved.
Yet he provides no meaningful demonstration, anywhere in his teaching, of why we should believe his claims about an end to the church age.
In this most recent work, Harold Camping brings sweeping charges against what the Scriptures identify as "the churches of God." He authoritatively announces a stunning and categorical mandate, claiming the time has come for all Christians to leave their churches and to refuse to any longer regard the structure and hierarchy of spiritual authority which the Bible establishes for the churches. Although Camping's influence among Christians has diminished considerably since his book "1994?" was found to have misled many as to the timing of the Lord's return (thereby disrupting lives and entire ministries), through the platform of Family Radio he remains a significant voice for many believers who are seriously seeking a more satisfying knowledge of God in Christ.
My response to Camping's paper is an attempt to demonstrate, by means of straightforward observations in plain sight of the reader, that Camping's doctrine is false, and that he is not worthy of being regarded as a legitimate teacher among the Christians. We should always be mindful of the example of the Christians in Berea:
"These were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they-searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" -Acts 17:11.
In searching the Scriptures, it is plain to see that the Bible condemns the high and destructive imaginations of Harold Camping. Will we leave the flock of Christ and entrust our souls to the high imaginations of this teacher?
A Christian's love for Jesus Christ is inseparable from his or her love for the church, and Harold Camping perversely mishandles the distinction between the external churches and the eternal Body of Christ.
"Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?...Feed My sheep" -Jn 21:17. "We know that we have passed from death into life, because we love the brethren" -1Jn 3:14.
"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" -1Jn 4:11.
"Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her" -Eph 5:25. "(B)esides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches" -2Corin 11:28.
"The elders who are among you I exhort ... shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers...Likewiseyou younger people, submit yourselves to your elders" -1Pet 5:1-5.
Has Harold Camping shown a love for the church? The local church, so long as it retains its lampstand, is the visible expression of the eternal Body of Christ, just as each Christian is a visible expression of Him who has begotten us:
"So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" -Genesis 1:27.
"Therefore be imitators of God as dear children" -Eph 5:1.
"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God [and thereby responsible for imitating the character of God], to those who believe in His name" -Jn 1:12.
"Imitate me [Paul], just as I also imitate Christ" -1Cor 11:1.
Undoubtedly, every local church is flawed in its expression of the eternal Body of Christ, just as every individual Christian is flawed in his or her expression of Him who has begotten us. None of us can say we have perfectly answered the requirements of our baptism. Yet we press on.
Before we are so quick to castigate our local church for its flaws, we ought to meditate acutely on our own spiritual shortcomings. Our local church needs us, and we need the church. Each local church is a church of God, however flawed, and our absence from its midst is a wound to the Body of Christ.
If we willingly afflict the church, whether by sins of commission or omission, we may be certain the Lord will afflict us.
Harold Camping has openly boasted that Family Radio is "in no sense under the authority of the church" (p.13). This is the testimony of His own lips. His contempt for the church is a raw exposure of the spiritual rebellion and arrogance that has mastered his soul and transformed him into an unmasked enemy of our confession. Dear Christian, beware of such men. "They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever" (Jude 12-13).
J. Patrick Griffin
312 Markham Ave
Vaccaville, CA 95688
As one can see this has been a very careful and thorough rebuttal which allowed scripture to interpret scripture. A similar technique has been used by Mr. Griffin in his soon to be published book, Dispensationalism: A Biblical Examination. This book, to be published by PublishAmerica, will be a valuable tool in helping our brethren see the errors of Dispensationalism.
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