Home > American Evangelicalism, American Protestantism > Condemning Millennialism as False Doctrine: The Real Lesson in the Camping Prediction

Condemning Millennialism as False Doctrine: The Real Lesson in the Camping Prediction

May 21st, 2011
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“Where is the Promise of His Coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the Creation.” (2 Peter 3:4)

Harold Camping managed to attract a lot of media attention with his prediction that today the so-called “rapture” would happen today. Consequently, he has made it possible for non-believers to do what they have always done: scoff and laugh and poke fun. But Harold Camping has done far worse than merely confess what the Bible teaches: that Christ will return again on the last day, he has subjected the entire Christian church to scorn and ridicule because of fanciful predictions, which are all grounded in a common false teaching among many protestant evangelical Christians: believe in a literal millennial rule and reign of Christ. Such teachings, and teachers, and church bodies that tolerate in their midst the heretical view that there will be a literal reign of Christ, on earth for 1000 years, must be rebuked and rejected.

All these teachings subject the Church and all Christians to ridicule. When we suffer persecution, it must be persecution for the truth, not because of a nut making crazy predictions. But he is not alone. Look at the fortune raked in by the authors and publishers of the “Left Behind” books. Shame on any Christian who read those and “enjoyed” them. Shame on those church bodies and church leaders that teach a “millennium” and encourage others to do so.

It is interesting to me to see how silent churches that advance these teachings have been during Mr. Camping’s predictions. They are complicit with such predictions. Mr. Camping just happens to have taken matters further than they are willing to go, but for how long have we been bombarded by apocalyptic predictions, claiming the Book of Revelation is a “road map” to the end times and to fanciful and fanatical distortions of the text of Scripture. Far too many Christians have been willing to be caught up in spending to much time thinking and talking about the “End Times” that they truly have become “so heavenly minded, they are no earthly good.”

Holy Scripture explicitly warns against those who claim to know when the end of all things shall be. Our Lord says to be prepared for the end, much as one might prepare for a thief to come in the night. You make your preparations, you get ready, but you never know when He will return.

So, rather than chuckle and make fun and jokes, let us lament that Mr. Camping is simply taking what is latent in much of American protestantism to an extreme degree, but it is rotten fruit born of the rotten tree of millennialism. Repent therefore of any temptation you have felt to believe all this false teaching and nonsense and then, dear friend, turn to the Lord of the Ages who welcomes you into His eternal kingdom, in the hear and now, through the precious Gospel that gives you complete forgiveness and a home forever in heaven with all the saints and those who have gone before.

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  1. Ryan
    May 21st, 2011 at 21:23 | #1

    Thank you for not mincing words here. I am in total agreement with you about the errors of this character. I will say that I appreciate that these folk maintain a lively, if wildly wrong, hope in the return of Christ. The hope of many Christians, Lutherans included, seems to be more wrapped up in the state of their soul after death than in the Parousia.

  2. Jacob
    May 21st, 2011 at 21:44 | #2

    It is so alarming how this millennium madness has taken over most evangelical/Baptist, etc. churches. They claim to take the words of the Bible literally (except for Christ’s words, “this is My body…this is My blood”), but then they end up with wild speculative readings on the end times. They have no idea how much they have in common with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. There is something very Gnostic about this, too.

  3. Judy
    May 21st, 2011 at 22:43 | #3

    OK, so if millenialism isn’t true, then what’s the alternative? What is the truth? Why is millenialism false?

  4. Jonathan Trost
    May 22nd, 2011 at 08:41 | #5

    Thanks for that, Pastor.

    But, who are these “protestant evangelical Christians”, who compose much of “American protestantism”? How did the word “Protestant” become so corrupted as to become “protestant”? Does “Protestant” today in American English simply mean any Christian who is neither RC nor Eastern Orthodox?

    Near the RC cathedral in Speyer, Germany is the beautiful, gothic “Evangelische Gedaechtniskirche der Protestation von 1529″ with a large free-standing statue of Luther at its main entrance. How different the meanings of “Evangelical” and “Protestant” in that description of the Memorial Church are from their use in current American usage!

    Who are American Protestants today? When I was a kid, they were Lutherans, Presbyterians, Reformed, Episcopalians, Methodists, Congregationalists, Baptists, et al. None of them was (is) millennialist. And yet, in watching and reading “the news” in recent years, I have the impresion that many of these so-called “mainline Protestant churches” seem to have been “sidelined”, i.e., hardly known to be present on the contemporary American religious scene. If I’m right, why?

    My own answer is, in part, that they (Lutherans and some others excluded) have replaced the Gospel of “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified and risen” with “Just do good and avoid evil” (a basic tenet of American civil religion) which virtually makes the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension irrelevant and, therefore, of inconsequential significance.

    What’s your “take”?

  5. Julia
    May 22nd, 2011 at 13:35 | #6

    Judy,

    I was caught up in milleniasim for a long time (about 15 yrs.) Slowly the Holy Spirit brought me to deal with the scripture in John where Jesus states You search the scriptures because you think in them there is eternal life: and it is they that witness about Me. (John 15:39).
    I invite you to listen to the teaching on Revelation on Issues 24. I think it will help tremendously. The link is below.

    http://issuesetc.org/issues-etc-24-2011/

    The book of Revelation use to scare me. Now I understand it is about Jesus.
    I hope this will bring comfort to you.

    Julia

  6. May 22nd, 2011 at 14:09 | #7

    I agree with the writer. It is disturbing that so many mainline Protestant churches in our land have continued to mix truth and error regarding the end times. For sure, each of the denominations that follow the 1000 year millennial reign of Christ on earth will use some scriptural basis for this belief, but these interpretations are not in context, nor are they applicable. To proclaim the word of God without the discernment of the Holy Spirit will inevitably lead to false doctrines and heresies. Mr Camping, for one, although steeped in Bible study much of his life, openly rebelled against Christ’s admonition that we are not to know the day or the hour of His return, and his three failed predictions of the exact date have truly brought much ridicule upon the Church. It is also true that many pastors should have openly rebuked him for teaching heresy, instead of remaining quiet over the past few years. The Camping story is one of how a Christian radio station, initially supported by many churches for the ministry of music, Bible reading, and teaching, ultimately became a cult under Harold Camping, turned its back on fundamental Christian orthodoxy, and became an obstacle to the preaching of the true gospel. My hope and prayer is that those caught in the web of Mr Camping’s apostasy will, through God’s grace, turn off their radios to his teachings, seek repentance, and rejoin the Christian community.

  7. Kirsten
    May 22nd, 2011 at 17:23 | #8

    I agree with pretty much everything you just said, except for your reference to the Left Behind books. I read those when I was around 14, and they are meant to be purely fiction, and if you want to say that the author actually believes that then it’s purely hypothesis. It may also be possible that Christ will reign on earth for a literal 1000 years. You don’t know that he won’t for sure, so don’t go bashing that around, your theory is just about as close to the truth as any one else’s. Cheers.

  8. May 22nd, 2011 at 18:53 | #9

    @Kristen

    Tim LaHaye does not mean it to be fiction. His own website calls it a “prophetic novel series”. A little bit of research reveals that these books are fictional but that they were intended to present the events as LaHaye believe they will take place. It’s not a hypotosis because Tim LaHaye has admitted this in public statements.

    As to what Christ will do when he returns, I prefer to stick only to what Christ has said He will do in His Word: Namely that He will return in glory where He will judge the living and the dead. I trust what He says alot more than a tiny minority of theologians based mainly in America speculate will happen based on faulty scholarship.

  9. Richard
    May 23rd, 2011 at 09:12 | #10

    Love the pciture! But I thought we were supposed to be raptured “nekkid”!

  10. Rev. Michael Trask
    May 23rd, 2011 at 09:25 | #11

    @Julia
    We have a bingo! Thanks Julia. I followed a similar course. In high school I was smitten by a millenialist named Hal Lindsey. Remnants of his false teaching followed me even into Seminary. These were blasted to bits by a Professor named Louis Brighton (The substance of the class is found in the Concordia commentary by him… It’s a little Greeky, but lay people will enjoy it too)

    He began his Revelation Class by saying things like “Revelation is the most hopeful book” “Revelation is the most encouraging book” “Revelation is the only book of scripture the shows the exalted ascended Christ”. The scales fell from my eyes from the first class period.

  11. Karen Keil
    May 23rd, 2011 at 15:27 | #12

    @Rev. Michael Trask

    I remember the book, THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH, which was full of premillennialism back in 1972, a few months after being confirmed in the Lutheran faith. It was all new to me and I never saw anything like it taught in confirmation. It really threw me for a loop.

    Prior to this book, I believed that Christ would come on the last day of the world and that was it–the righteous would live forever heaven in the new heavens and a new earth, while the sinners would spend eternity in hell. It took me quite some time to understand what it was all about and that Lutherans took the stand of “amillennialism”.

    Even as a HS senior, I was concerned when the Lutheran church high school sunday school teacher gave a copy of a book presenting premillennialism (maybe the book, THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH (?)), to one of the students as a reward for something in class.

    A book, “Approaching the New Millennium: An Amillennial Look at A.D. 2000″, by Paul T. Butler (published 1998 or 1999), is one of those I remember that gave a great presentation on amillennialism.

  12. Rev. Michael Trask
    May 24th, 2011 at 10:26 | #13

    @Karen Keil
    Yep, “Late Great Planet Earth” is the Hal Lindsey book that got me. That’s how the premillennialist doctrine attacked us in our generation. For the current generation, it was the “Left Behind” Series. They seem so biblical, but upon closer inspection they really play loose and fast with God’s Word by taking incredible leaps with human reason to make their point. Human reason is useful, but when it overpowers and asserts its will on the text of scripture rather than obediently hearing it, false teaching is born.

    Premillennialism is like the flu. Just like the flu virus, it is slightly different each time it appears. As a pastor, I “inoculate” my congregation against infection by teaching them Revelation or Daniel about every 5 years. Any last vestige of premillennialism is chased away by the clear and faithful reading of scripture. Plus , these are great and uplifting books of the bible. They do demonstrate that the Lord, and in particular Jesus are truly in charge of things. They flesh out the wonderful truth of what Paul revealed in Romans 8:28-37.

    I’ll have to check out that Butler book. Thanks for the line on it. : )

  13. Rev. Allen Bergstrazer
    May 25th, 2011 at 11:18 | #14

    @Karen Keil
    I remember “The Late Great Planet Earth’ as well, what completely derailed Lindsey’s ‘ministry’ was the fall of the old Soviet Union, and it hasn’t been the same since. Facts have a way of revealing false prophets. Camping has not only discredited himself with this false prediction, he has disgraced himself by not admitting he is wrong and repenting. Rather he continues the meme, and makes excuses, not recognizing his own sins.

  14. June 1st, 2011 at 10:16 | #15

    While I certainly believe that this strand of Biblical interpretation is erroneous, I wonder if you go to far in calling it a heresy. I don’t see how it contradicts any of the fundamental beliefs of the faith or the classic creeds and doctrinal statements. That is to say, the church must have a defined doctrinal position in order for a dissenting interpretation to be heretical.

    The Lutherans may have a position on “the millennium” but I am unaware of any ancient catholic and ecumenical consensus or creedal statement regarding this issue. But maybe I have simply not heard about a very real ecumenical teaching on this issue (which I would certainly like to know about). Right now, it seems to me one in which different Christians may legitimately hold differing opinions or interpretations, though some of those opinions may clearly be wrong, and therefore in need of correction.

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