Rev. Gise VanBaren

Rev. VanBaren is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

"1994?" …A Rerun?

Taken from the Standard Bearer Vol. 78; No. 10; February 15, 2001

Our editor examined the position of Mr. Harold Camping revealed in his book "1994?" in the Standard Bearer (Vol. 69, page 149; see also page 269, where the editor comments on a letter to the editor on this matter). Camping was careful to put that "?" behind the date - but the book made very plain that he believed with almost absolute certainty that Christ would return in September of 1994. The editor exposed the errors in this teaching. He concluded his editorial:

The mark of false prophecy is that "the thing follow not, nor come to pass" (Deut. 18:21, 22).
I have written the following announcement. It is to be published in the Standard Bearer of October 1, 1994.
"Christ did not come, nor did the world end, last month, as Harold Camping prophesied in 1991 in his book, 1994?. I now call on Mr. Camping to repent of his sin of disobeying Christ by predicting the date of Christ's coming and to repudiate the very idea of such predictions. I also call on him to recognize the error of his allegorical exegesis and to direct his followers to a true Reformed church where sound, grammatical-historical-spiritual exegesis is the basis of all preaching and teaching."

As all must know, Harold Camping neither repented nor recanted.

Even the secular press took note of Camping's gaffe. U.S. News and World Report, December 19, 1994, reported:

Radio evangelist Harold Camping admits he is "slightly disappointed" that the world did not end last September.
A civil engineer by training and now president of Family Radio Inc.'s network of 39 Christian radio stations and 14 shortwave transmitters, Camping figured that he had deciphered the Bible's chronological blueprint:
"The world began with Adam in 11013 B.C. and was scheduled to end some 13 millenniums later, almost certainly in the first jubilee year after the birth of modern Israel. September 1994, to be exact. That's the time his book 1994?, which sold 70,000 copies, predicted that skies would darken at midday and graves would fly open as the dead joined the living to face God's fiery judgment."
Camping's critics say he ignored, or misinterpreted, the well-known passage (Matthew 25:13) where Jesus admonishes his disciples that no man can know the day nor the hour of his return. But Camping, whose radio network will take in some $12 million this year, up 20 percent since 1994? was published two years ago, brushes off the criticism.
The 73-year-old father of six says that he is in fact "delighted" to have a little more time, because he has many friends and family members who are "not yet saved."
He adds:
"I still believe we are very near the end. Are you ready?"

The Christian Renewal, January 14, 2002, reports on a certain VanGeene in the Netherlands and Harold Camping in California under the title: "Every fool has a following." In both instances, these men indicate that Christ is coming back soon - but according to a timetable they have devised. And people seem ready to listen to them. The Christian Renewal reports concerning Camping:

In California, popular Bible teacher and author Harold Camping announced in June 2001, that Christ's return is very close at hand. He has urged the listeners to his internationally known Family Radio programs to withdraw from their churches, to form small, informal house congregations or fellowships and prepare for His coming. Camping's explanation for this is documented in a pamphlet with the title, Has the Era of the Church Come to an End?, a question he answers in the affirmative. The pamphlet and a more recent Addendum are available at www.familyradio.com/cross/tract/church.htm.
…Camping's Family Radio ministry, which broadcasts worldwide, has a School of the Bible with an enrollment (it is claimed) of 40,000 students. Because of his use of what "sounds like" Reformed Theology, Camping has had a considerable following among Presbyterian and Reformed listeners in North America and elsewhere.
In a 1992 book carefully titled 1994?, Camping, who was then a Teaching Elder in the Alameda Church, predicted that Jesus would return in September of 1994. When that turned out not to be the case, Camping unapolo-getically and piously informed his worldwide audience that his mathematical calculations would receive further divine enlightenment, to stay tuned and not turn that dial. In spite of that prophetic blooper, Camping's audience allegedly grew. Today the Alameda Reformed Bible Church (ARBC) is no more. With the agreement of the (now extinct) ARBC Consistory, has come in its place the Alameda Bible Fellowship (the ABF), the "Home of Harold Camping," its website proclaims. All the former Elders have resigned their offices (some involuntarily) as belonging to the now expired "church age" and as no longer needed in a pre-Rapture fellowship, apparently leaving Camping in charge….

Harold Camping in the pamphlet, "Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End?" explains his position. One must not be deceived by the "?" at the end of the title. Camping makes very plain that the church age has come to an end. He realizes that he erred earlier when he prophesied that Christ would return sometime in September 1994. His error, it seems, was that September 1994 in fact marked the end of the church era. The church has become apostate. The faithful are called now to come out of the church (all churches) and establish home-fellowships in which to worship on Sunday. The two witnesses of Revelation are dead. Neither elders nor deacons nor ministers of the Word represent Christ anymore. These can only be regarded as false prophets. There are to be no more sacraments and no more organized churches.

How must the gospel now be spread over all the world until Christ returns? Camping concludes that this cannot be done by an "increasingly dead church" but rather by "a robust healthy presentation of the Gospel by means of an organization like Family Radio." And, of course, there are no other radio ministries with a "healthy presentation of the Gospel" besides Family Radio. Camping puts it this way (page 5):

Thus we wonder: is there a correlation that exists between all of these major subjects we have been discussing? Let us review.
1. Tremendous apostasy in the congregations and denominations.
2. Exploding population.
3. Exploding electronic knowledge, resulting in enormous advances in mass communication.
4. Increasing blessing coming to a ministry such as Family Radio as it ministers globally the true Gospel.
Fact is, the Bible does provide a marvelous synthesis of these things. Once we understand the Bible's teaching on these subjects, we should understand how harmonious all of these phenomena are.
…But there is a larger plan of God that must be looked at.
This plan shows that a time will come when God will no longer use the churches and congregations to bring the Gospel to the world. They instead will come under the wrath of God (p. 7).

Without entering at length into the convoluted reasoning and her-meneutics of Harold Camping, it could be stated that, on the basis of the history of Judah and the captivity (as well as other Old Testament historical events), he claims that the church age has ended. Faithful Christians must leave their churches or face the doom of God's wrath which falls on these churches. Listen to what he has to say:

…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. Never before in the history of the world can a whole continent come under the umbrella of the Gospel.
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. The next event will be the return of Christ and the end of the world.
And that brings us to a very real but very troublesome question. If we can still find or are still a part of a church that is reasonably true to the Bible, should we remain there? Does the Bible give us clear instruction concerning this very important question? Fact is, what are we to do if we could find a church where it appears that each and every doctrine they hold and teach is faithful to the Word of God?

And what is Camping's answer?

Significantly, in Revelation 11, where God speaks of the work of the church being finished He speaks of Jerusalem (the churches) as Sodom and Egypt (Rev. 11:8).
Significantly, too, as He addresses the subject of the great tribulation, He says, "Remember Lot's wife." She refused to flee and ended up under judgment. Those who attempted to remain in Jerusalem in 587 B.C. came under the judgment of God. Remember we saw this warning in Jeremiah 29:16-19.
The message should be clear. We must remove ourself from the church.
In the context of "Remember Lot's wife" God also declares in Luke 17:31:
"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: and he that is in the field let him likewise not return back." The housetop is identified with bringing the Gospel. In Luke 12:3 we read: "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."
The house identifies with the church. But as judgment comes on the church the true believer is to stay outside the church bringing the Gospel to the world.
…Because the church era has come to an end the churches have become dead as the church of Sardis long ago became dead. (Rev. 3:1). The churches of today have had their candlestick removed even as the church of Ephesus of Rev. 2 was warned that God would remove their candlestick if they did not return to their first love. The church has ceased to be an institution or divine organism to serve God as His appointed representative on earth.

Camping continues by quoting Luke 21:5, 6 and drawing the following conclusions:

These temple buildings represent the churches and congregations God would build throughout the New Testament time. Those who come into this spiritual temple are gold, silver and precious stones, and wood, hay, stubble, (I Cor 3:12). That is, they are both true believers and those who appear to be true believers and actually are not. Thus each congregation is an integral part of that great temple.
But Jesus declares that there will be a time when there will not be left one stone upon another. That is, the temple will be totally destroyed. It will no longer exist.
But suppose a congregation believes that it can remove all of the high places. Yet will endeavor to be as faithful to the Bible as possible.
It then is insisting that it is still a tiny part of the temple that still exists.
But Christ said "there will not be left one stone upon another." Thus this congregation is effectively saying they are more holy than God. That congregation should realize that no church can still be a part of the temple.

On the basis of Hebrews 10:25 Camping insists that there must still be "assembling together" on the Sabbath - but without officebearers, without sacramments, without official preaching, without discipline. He concludes by insisting that the decision to withdraw must be a very personal decision. But he states this on the basis that the "corporate institution" is no more and therefore has no authority to tell anyone what to do. Yet he makes very plain that all who remain in the churches will be destroyed in God's judgment. And since these churches no longer represent Christ and His Word, the only conclusion must be that the pastors, elders, and deacons are false prophets. Unless they follow Camping's example, they will be destroyed with their churches. The only place where the gospel is now proclaimed is at Family Radio and by Mr. Harold Camping.

In harmony with his current teachings, Camping has disbanded his church (Alameda Reformed Bible Church) and has established the Alameda Bible Fellowship as of October 11, 2001. This was done by majority, but not unanimous vote of the members of that church. The term "Reformed" has been dropped. The "Fellowship" has no officebearers, no preachers, no membership role. Only Camping serves as Bible teacher.

In harmony, too, with his teachings, Camping has ordered that churches may no longer broadcast over Family Radio. At least, he has removed the "Back to God Hour," which had been on the stations many years. Listeners who asked the "Back to God Hour" the reasons for this, were answered by Rev. David Feddes:

Dear friend,
For many years the weekly Back to God Hour program could be heard on stations owned by the Family Radio network. But at the end of November, 2001, Family Radio stopped broadcasting our program, without telling listeners the reason. Here is a brief account of the situation.
Harold Camping, president of Family Radio, has fallen into serious error, teaching that the age of the church has ended. Camping urges all Christians to leave their churches. He has also issued an edict that Family Radio must reject any program which is sponsored by a church or which speaks of Christ's abiding purposes for the church, its leaders, and its sacraments.
In the early 1990s Camping insisted that Christ would return in 1994. He turned out to be wrong. Rather than admitting his error and repenting, Camping instead used fanciful interpretations of Scripture to claim that 1994 was still a major landmark. It marked an unfolding of events in which the church age has come to an end. Camping claims that God has stopped working through churches and has begun a period of "latter rain" in which the Lord now works mainly through ministries such as Family Radio. Thus Camping's earlier error has grown into something even worse. He is distorting the Word of God and is offending Christ by attacking the beloved bride of Christ, the church. It would be legitimate to warn people that some denominations and congregations have wandered far from God's Word, but Camping entirely dismisses all churches, including many that are true to the Lord.
Harold Camping claims that evil has overcome the entire church and that Christ is no longer building his church, but Jesus promised, "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matthew 16:18). Camping says that church leaders - pastors, elders, and deacons - no longer have authority, but the Bible says, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority" (Hebrews 13:17). Camping says the church's sacraments - baptism and the Lord's Supper - should not be observed anymore, but Scripture speaks of eating the bread and drinking the cup until Christ comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).
We grieve that it is no longer possible for us to proclaim the historic Christian faith on Family Radio. We regretfully advise God's people not to support Family Radio financially, unless it stops spreading error.
Meanwhile, the Back to God Hour continues to broadcast on many other stations throughout North America and around the world. A station list is enclosed. We hope you can hear a station in your area. If not, please note that our programs can be heard anytime on the internet at www. BacktoGod.net.
Sincerely,
David Feddes
Broadcast Minister

All of the above might be considered rather ludicrous if it were not so deadly serious. One might charitably (?) attribute this to the afflictions of old age (Camping must be about 80 years old). Yet this man, who has espoused so many soundly scriptural (Reformed) doctrines, comes with that which is utterly repulsive and so contrary to Scripture. He who correctly in the past warned against "another gospel," now comes with another gospel. He who warned strongly against the delusions of Satan, now comes with a delusion which must cause joy to Satan himself. He who rightly condemned great apostasy in the churches, now proposes a "remedy" which, if followed, would destroy God's people and remove from them the spiritual nourishment they so sorely need in these evil days. All preachers, elders, deacons, and church members who remain within the churches will be destroyed. He who warns about the "high places," now himself sets up a "high place" - and it is in effect an altar set before Camping himself. Only Family Radio (there are no other radio broadcasts which bring the "true gospel") can seek to evangelize the world before Christ returns.

Camping's error is not that he teaches that Christ's coming is at hand - for clearly it is. His error is rather that he seeks to destroy the body of Christ - albeit under the guise of rescuing the "eternal church" of Christ. One can only pray for the man's repentance and conversion - lest the blood of many rest on his head in that great day of judgment.

 

 

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