Is Date Setting Biblical?

By Dr. Manfred Kober

(Introduction by George Zeller)




Billboards like this one were placed throughout the nation in 2011. Harold Camping, 89 year old nationally known radio host (Family Radio) predicted the exact date of the Lord’s return: May 21, 2011. He taught that the rapture would take place on this day which he also referred to as "judgment day." He also taught that the end of the world would occur five months later, on October 21, 2011. On the billboard, the claim is made that the Bible guarantees this presumptuous prediction.


To the discerning believer, red flags are raised immediately. First red flag: The Lord warned against foolish date-setting when He taught that no one knows the day or the hour of His return (Matt. 24:36). Second red flag: The day of the rapture will not be a "judgment day" for the world. Rather it will be the day when the members of the body of Christ (the true church) will be caught up to meet their Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Third red flag: The world cannot end in 2011 because the millennial kingdom of 1000 years must run its course before this earth is destroyed (Revelation 20; 2 Peter 3).


This is not the first time that Harold Camping has predicted the time of Christ’s return. His earlier false prophecy was that Jesus Christ would return on or between September 15, 1994 and September 27, 1994. History has proven Camping wrong and it must have been a major national embarrassment to him! Why he would later want to be embarrassed a second time is hard to understand. Camping failed to learn his lesson from his first failed prediction and then he plunged headlong into his second failed prediction. How unwise to try to announce that which God has chosen not to reveal. God has not told us the time. He wants us to be ready always.


There have been many other foolish date setters. Edgar Whisenant wrote a book entitled, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988. Of course, the Lord did not come in 1988 so he presented his new theory: 89 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Take Place in 1989. Someone humorously surmised that the added reason given in the new book might be this: "Reason #89—Because He did not come in 1988." Jehovah’s Witnesses taught that the second coming of Christ would take place in 1914. Other cults have likewise engaged in date-setting.    --George Zeller


Is Date Setting Biblical?

By Dr. Manfred Kober


[Note:  This was written in 2011, before Harold Camping's predictions were proved to be false]


Harold Camping, owner of Family Radio Network, claims, "God has led us in these last days to discover Biblical evidence that judgment day for the unbelievers and the rapture of believers will occur on May 21, 2011." (FRN Pocket Calendar for 2009)

Hundreds of previous dates set for the return of the Lord and the end of the world were erroneous predictions uttered by false prophets. Date setting is unbiblical. Below are some reasons why it is dangerous and wrong.


1. It disregards the fact that all previous date-setting attempts were doomed to failure. Rather than repenting, most erring date setters just recalculate and recalibrate. When Edgar Whisenant s book, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be In 88, turned out to be a false prophecy, he promptly suggested 89 reasons why the rapture would be in 1989. Camping’s publication, 1994?, failed to come true but he is now certain that the rapture will be on May 21 of this year.


2. It disobeys the injunction from Christ to refrain from unwarranted speculation. A hundred years ago, Sir Robert Anderson, chief of Criminal Investigation for Scotland Yard, and great theologian, said of date setters: "They have brought reproach on Scripture itself, and have given a stimulus to the jaunty skepticism of the day. We might have hoped that whatever else might be forgotten, the last words which the Lord Jesus spoke on earth would not be thus thrust aside: ‘It is not for you to know the times nor the seasons which the Father has put in his own power’ (Acts 1:7)...the result has been that the blessed hope of the Lord’s return has been degraded to the level of predictions of astrologers, to the confusion and grief of faithful hearts and the amusement of the world" (The Coming Prince, 11th ed., 132).


3. It delves into areas of privileged knowledge that only belongs to God. Christian psychiatrist O. Quentin Hyder warns believers, "God has not given us knowledge of the future nor the ability to obtain it. In this dispensation we are limited in knowledge but expected to live by faith. One day we shall know even as we are known. Craving for knowledge of the future is absolutely contrary to God’s will for man and therefore any attempt to obtain it is devil inspired and eventually damaging or even destructive to all who pursue it." (The Christian’s Handbook of Psychiatry [1971], 75-76).


4. It discounts the fact that even secular predictions are totally inaccurate and impossible. Who in the summer of 1989 would have predicted the collapse of the Iron Curtain on November 9 of that year? Who predicted the ouster of Egyptian President Mubarak a week before it happened in February 2011?


5. It destroys the concept of imminence, namely, that Christ could return at any moment. Camping’s insistence on a May 21 rapture means that the Lord cannot return today. Yet we are to look daily and hourly for His coming. In Titus 2:13 Paul literally says the we are "excitedly expecting continually the joyous prospect" of Christ’s glorious appearing.


6. It displays a certain arrogance of the date setter by suggesting a novel interpretation hidden from everyone else. Date setters claim to have special insights. Camping observes that previous speculators were wrong because "they did not base their conclusion upon a careful analysis of everything the Bible had to say about the return of Christ." (We Are Almost There, 18) As for himself, Camping says, "We indeed can be certain that the rapture will occur on May 21, 2011 and the final day of the history of the world is October 21, 2011" (Ibid. 63, emphasis in the original).


7. It distorts genuine interpretation and holds all legitimate teachers of prophecy up to ridicule. Camping’s sensational warning has appeared on many billboards: Judgment Day-May 21, 2011-The Bible Guarantees It. The news media are ridiculing these precipitous predictions. After May 21 skeptics will point out that Camping s claim that the Bible guarantees his view implies that the Bible cannot be trusted. Unfortunately, doctrinal error seldom stands by itself. Harold Camping s horrible and heretical hermeneutics also lead him to insist that the church age ended in 1988, that there is no millennial rule of Christ, and that all the wicked will be annihilated rather than suffer everlasting punishment in hell.


8. It disseminates its error with missionary zeal and thus influences others to be heretical. Untold harm is done to immature and young Christians! What will the life of Camping's followers and employees be like when the Rapture does not occur on May 21? What of their witness to their neighbors or their credibility and usefulness in any future ministry?


Conclusion: Rather than engaging in speculation and sensationalism, the believer is characterized by a. Eager anticipation (Tit. 2:13, "excitedly expecting...") b. Energized activity (Lk. 19:10, "occupy till I come") c. Extraordinary alertness (2 Thess. 2:13, "Let no man deceive you. . .").  May this be our concern until the trumpet sounds and summons us into the presence of the Saviour!



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