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The End Is Near, But Not Here

Now that May 21, 2011 has come and gone without a rapture, many people (including Christians) are ridiculing Harold Camping who boldly predicted and expected to be taken to Heaven on that day. It has been reported that Family Radio (Camping's media organization) spent about $100 million notifying the world that a pre-tribulation rapture would occur on May 21. Now that the predicted date has passed and the money has been spent, Camping and his followers have been widely ridiculed in the media. Because the passage of time has proven Camping wrong, he has attempted to deflect some of the criticism by saying that May 21 was “a spiritual date.” Camping now says the Church will be raptured on October 21, 2011. Skeptics, of course, view Camping's new date as "kicking a worthless can further down the road."

I feel sad for those who sold their homes, cars and possessions in anticipation of a May 21 rapture. I also feel sad for Mr. Camping and those who put their faith in his prediction. Yet, at the same time, we have to admire the faith and courage of those people who sold their homes, cars, and possessions because they fully believed that life on Earth was over! That's right, they FULLY believed and their actions confirmed it! History proves over and over again that spiritual beliefs have no bearing on reality. God permits us to believe whatever we want to believe, but our beliefs may have nothing to do with reality. ALL but eight people believed Noah was wrong. What effect did this have? About 100 thousand people believed Jesus would return in 1844. What effect did this have? Perhaps as many as 100 million Christians believe there will be a pre-tribulation rapture. What effect will this have?

Our beliefs, faith, hope, and sincerity have no effect on God's plans and this can be a hard pill to swallow. Certainly, God will do all that He has promised to do when the fullness of time is reached, but only when the fullness of time is reached. Therefore, sincerely believing that something will or will not happen (and setting a date for it) is a matter of intellectual assent and intellectual assent is not to be confused with faith. The Holy Spirit knows each of our hearts. He is pleased when we live up to all that we know to be right and true and God always rewards those who live by faith. (Hebrews 11:6) The Bible is clear, ". . . . The righteous shall live by faith!" (Romans 1:17) Therefore, I am praying for those who were deeply disappointed with May 21. I am praying that they will NOT abandon their faith in God, but instead that they will abandon their prophetic paradigm – their intellectual assent to a pre-tribulation rapture.

Whenever faith brings us to a dead end street, there is a painful, but wonderful opportunity to spiritually mature. This process enables growth in grace and faith. When faith and reality do not align, it is

time to restudy and rethink God's Word. Human beings cannot and do not know the future. Only God knows with certainty how the future will unfold. He has given us certain clues in the books of Daniel and Revelation, but prophetic faith (events awaiting fulfillment) is not to be confused with prophetic fact (events that have taken place).

After many years, Abraham and Sarah grew tired of waiting on the Lord for the promised son. When the reality of what God promised did not appear, their faith ran out. Rather than restudy and rethink God's Word, Sarah set out to fulfill the Lord's promise and Abraham went along. You know the dismal result. There is a significant difference between faith and presumption. Faith waits on God, believing that when the fullness of time is right, God Himself will produce the evidence – the things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. On the other hand, impatience leads to presumption. Millions of Christians have become impatient. We want to see our prophetic faith fulfilled "right now." There is a ground swell of desire among Christians for a pre-tribulation rapture or the return of Jesus – but no matter how sincere the desire, man cannot produce either event.

I believe Mr. Camping became a victim of his own creation. He produced a time line from Bible texts that made perfect sense to him and he then convinced others that his paradigm (actually, a private interpretation) was valid. Today, everyone now knows this truth: Camping’s paradigm and God's Word do not align. It is very unlikely Mr. Camping and his followers could have been dissuaded from their conviction. When intellectual assent and faith are mixed together, nothing but bitter disappointment can force a person into another way of thinking.

Based on what I have observed, Mr. Camping is a man of considerable faith (as was Abraham). Camping (and many followers) acted according to their faith. Camping spent $100 million to tell the world. I have read how one follower cashed out his retirement plan to buy $140,000 in newspaper ads. What faith! We can summarize these actions by saying, "Right heart – wrong head." I have heard it said that "genuine Christians" would never do such a foolish thing – sell their possessions or give everything they have to help others hear about the return of Jesus. What nonsense. Christians who are unwilling to live by faith are worse off in many ways than those who are willing to live by faith and fail. It is far better to exercise faith and fail, than to walk by sight and do nothing for God. God knows that the human race is full of people having right hearts and wrong heads and He also knows that millions of people would be happy to do His will if only they actually knew His will! When our beliefs are shattered, two options usually surface. We can either abandon the Lord as Peter did in Pilate's judgment hall or return to the Word of God for a better understanding of His truth.

God's Word is truth but our understanding of God's Word is always incomplete. Harold Camping's public failure and humiliation should be a present reminder of this fact. Instead of condemning Mr. Camping and his followers, we need to encourage them to restudy and rethink the elements of their faith. We should commend them for their faith. Their failure may be fodder for skeptics and critical Christians, but they have shown the world what faith in God actually does! Where there is no possibility for failure, faith is impossible. Faith involves risk; otherwise, there is no room for faith.

God's Word is true and it can be trusted, but there are three standing principles which Christians cannot ignore at this late hour:

1. True Bible study will never put the Bible in a state of internal conflict. Contrary to public opinion, the Bible does not teach conflicting things. This is a matter which most Christians do not fully appreciate. In other words, until we understand everything said in the Bible about a topic, we cannot be sure of anything said about the topic. There are many "apparent conflicts" in the Bible and resolving them is not easy, but necessary. Camping's prophetic views are flawed because he has put the Bible in a state of internal conflict. He has ignored or misinterpreted Bible concepts and the passage of time has proven twice (1994 and 2011) that his schematic is wrong.

2. Before Noah and his family entered the ark, God confirmed the end had come by sending the animals into the ark. Unclean animals arrived in pairs and clean animals arrived in groups of seven. Think about this: God knew the world would think Noah was crazy, but Noah's ark was not proof that a flood was coming. The orderly arrival of the animals was THE divine sign that should have attracted the attention of the antediluvians. God's humble and silent creatures entered the ark on a divine cue, but who was paying attention?

In a similar manner, the books of Daniel and Revelation outline a clear sequence of events that will transpire prior to the Second Coming. When we see this sequence begin, we will know that the end has come. Until the sequence begins, the end is not here. Do not sell your home, assets or quit your job until you see the sequence begin. The only exception to this counsel is a divine revelation. If God personally tells you to do such and such, then do it by all means – but do not ask or expect others to do the same. When God has something to say, He speaks for Himself. We must not put words in God's mouth. If God calls you to be a prophet and requires you to say something to others as His spokesperson, then speak and if the Bible and the Holy Spirit validate your testimony, your calling is true. If the Bible and the Holy Spirit do not validate your testimony, your calling is imaginary.

3. Anxiety is increasing. The world is economically distressed. The world is ecologically distressed. The world is geophysically distressed. The world is politically distressed. Population is relentlessly increasing each day. Resources are dwindling. It is obvious we are in a pressure cooker that has no vent. The flame underneath the cooker is getting hotter and a great explosion is inevitable. When will the final 1,335 days begin? I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I do believe that we are living on the door step. I do not know when we will enter the 1,335 day countdown to Christ's appearing. Therefore, I continue to lay plans for next year. Even though I am watching and waiting for nuclear war and the casting down of the censer, life goes on and my endeavor for the Lord must continue.

Even though this coming August contains a date of interest, I continue to make plans for next year because a date of interest IS NOT a date of importance. When the censer comes down and the global earthquake occurs, my plans for the future will be terminated and God's plan for the future will unfold. Until that happens, God requires His children to faithfully keep about their work and endeavors. Tragedies and calamities are everywhere and they are increasing. People need help. People need encouragement and consolation.

Currently, there is no evidence (corporately speaking) that God wants His people to sell their possessions and quit their jobs. However, there are many places where we can financially help those who have lost everything. We have a tremendous opportunity to help those who are questioning God's love. We have an opportunity to explain what faith in God really means. We have an opportunity to increase Bible literacy. People need to understand that faith in God begins with surrender to God’s will – to go, to be, and to do as He directs. Faith is refined through trials and tribulation, patiently trusting in God with steadfast determination. You can know that your faith in God is viable when the Comforter puts a peace within your soul that passes understanding. It is described as being happy without knowing why you are happy!

If you happen to know one of Camping's followers, reach out and comfort them. Strengthen their faith and if possible, invite them to restudy and rethink their understanding of the Bible. The end is close, but not here. Until the end arrives, use your talents for the Lord! Study the following parable that Jesus told because it specifically pertains to those who would live near the end of days:

Matthew 25:14-30: "Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on

his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. "After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' "The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' "Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' "His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. "'Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"

Larry Wilson

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