“In many cases sheer fanaticism has been the result of exclusively dwelling on prophecy, and probably more men have gone mad on that subject than on any other religious question.” ((Charles H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1876), 23:644))

—Charles H. Spurgeon

A few years ago I received an email from a man claiming that the end would take place before the end of the year. He told me that he was certain. So I sent him a contract asking him to sign over all his property to me on January 1 of the following year. He wouldn’t do it. He lacked the certainty of his convictions.

Larry Falter is so sure that Jesus is returning soon that he is selling all the merchandise in his jewelry story at a steep discount. He’s even done a commercial, mixing graphic end-time images and heart-pounding music with a sales pitch:

Did you know the Bible predicts the day of the Lord, followed by the return of Jesus Christ to Jerusalem? As I read the daily news and look around the world, I believe we’re really close to that day. Nonetheless, here and now, if you want jewelry, I have access to millions. Diamonds and gemstones, gold, silver, watches and clocks, and I’m selling everything at 50 percent off, giving you unbelievable savings. (You can view his commercial here at www.startribune.com/a54.)

Mr. Falter is a little more consistent with his convictions, but as you know, jewelry has high mark ups. An across-the-board 80 percent discount might be more believable.

Then there’s Harold Camping who claims the so-called “rapture” will occur on May 21, 2011 ((Harold Camping, Time Has an End: A Biblical History of the World 11,013 B.C.–2011 A.D. (New York: Vantage Press, 2005).)) with the end of the world to follow in October of the same year. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Camping “has scrutinized the Bible for almost 70 years and says he has developed a mathematical system to interpret prophecies hidden within the Good Book. One night a few years ago, Camping, a civil engineer by trade, crunched the numbers and was stunned at what he’d found: The world will end May 21, 2011.” ((Justin Berton, “Biblical scholar’s date for rapture: May 21, 2011,” The San Francisco Chronicle (January 1, 2010).))

Camping and his followers are so sure of this new date that they are placing billboards in cities across the United States. Fifty of them are planned for the metro-Atlanta area. Allison Warden of Raleigh, North Carolina-based WeCanKnow.com, made the following comments about the campaign:

The Bible teaches that Christ is returning on May 21 and we want to encourage people to go to Scripture and investigate for themselves," said Warden, who insists the Christmas-timed campaign is not a gimmick. “All information in the Bible points to this date. God is going to be saving people right up until the last moment.

Camping sounds a lot like Edgar Whisenant who predicted that the rapture would take place in September 1988, a certainty that he backed up with his booklet 88 Reasons Why the Rapture is in 1988 and the claim “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town.” ((Quoted in Richard Abanes, End-Time Visions: The Road to Armageddon? (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1998), 93. Whisenant made the same claim when I debated him in 1988 on the radio.)) When the certainty of his prediction failed with the passing of September 1988, Whisenant, who worked as an engineer with NASA, claimed he had “made a slight miscalculation of one year because of a fluke in the Gregorian calendar. Jesus was actually going to return during Rosh Hashanah of 1989! Whisenant published his discovery in The Final Shout—Rapture Report 1989. ‘The time is short,’ he said. ‘Everything points to it.’ This publication was subsequently retitled The Final Shout—Rapture Report 1990 and has since been re-titled yearly as The Final Shout—Rapture Report 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and so on.” ((Abanes, End-Time Visions, 94.)) In case you don’t know, it’s almost 2011.

The failure of Whisenant did not stop Camping from plunging into the prediction game, and it didn’t stop people from following his nonsense. Camping sold tens of thousands of copies of 1994? ((Harold Camping, 1994? (New York: Vantage Press, 1992), 531.)) He followed this book with Are You Ready?: Much More Evidence that 1994 Could be the End of the World. The media give Camping’s view front-page coverage every time he opens his mouth because of his calculated prediction that Jesus will return on a specific date. They know he’ll be wrong. Their goal is to discredit the Bible. That’s why the San Francisco Chronicle describes Camping as a “Biblical scholar.” If a “scholar,” even a self-proclaimed one, makes a prediction about the Bible and is wrong, then the Bible must be wrong and everything else the Bible teaches. (See example here. Notice the picture of Camping holding up a Bible.).

Some might dismiss Camping as someone with limited audience reach, but he is the president of the California-based Family Radio, a world-wide conglomerate of dozens of radio stations broadcasting a conservative and somewhat idiosyncratic Christian message. The network’s website homepage includes a banner that reads “Judgment Day: May 11, 2011.” Camping is an anomaly in prophecy circles because he is amillennial. Amillennialists are not known for setting dates.

Here’s what I want you to do. Contact the people at Family Radio and request from Mr. Camping that if he truly believes that the rapture will take place on May 21, 2011 that he turn over all his assets to American Vision. Either way, if the “rapture” does occur or it doesn’t, it will get Mr. Camping out of the Christian broadcasting business once and for all.

The timing of Mr. Camping’s May 21, 2011 date couldn’t come at a better time. American Vision will be holding a prophecy conference at Ridgecrest Conference Center just outside Asheville, North Carolina, from June 1–4. We’ve invited a number of noted dispensational authors to participate in a series of open forums. We’re hoping at least one of them agrees to come. You might want to contact your favorite prophecy writer and tell them about the event. We would love to have some noted end-time advocates. Film director and producer Darren Doane (“Collision” and numerous music videos for groups like the “Zac Brown Band” and Van Morrison) will be filming the event and interviewing you the audience. More details are on the way. We suspect that we’ll still be here while Mr. Camping gets his slide rule out to figure what went wrong.