Despite a multi-million dollar advertising campaign, the 89-year-old radio entrepreneur’s proclamation that judgment day would occur on May 21 generated only a mildly amused, anecdotal mention throughout most of the Christian world.
Aside from a handful of Camping’s followers, few people of faith were surprised that life went on as usual at 6:01 p.m. Western Standard Time.
Most Christians believe the apocalypse is coming, but they doubt anybody can accurately predict it. Folks around Northeast Mississippi and Northwest Alabama shared their thoughts about Camping’s second errant prognostication and what they believe about the world’s end.
Tommy Chandler has little sympathy for Camping, who conveniently bumped his prediction to Oct. 21.
“He’s a false prophet, deceiving many,” said Chandler, a member of Harrisburg Baptist Church in Tupelo. “The saddest part of all is that a man will call himself a Christian and not even believe Jesus’ own words,” said Chandler, who, as a member of Gideons International, has a particularly strong devotion to scripture.
The words to which Chandler referred are found in Matthew 24:36. In the King James version of the New Testament, which Gideons place around the world, Jesus says, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”
Bishop Kelvin Ransey conceded that even prophets like Isaiah were probably considered crazy by many in their day, but a heart attuned to the music of the gospel can’t be led astray.
“Jesus said his sheep will hear his voice,” said Ransey, pastor of Spirit of Excellence Church in Oxford. “When Mr. Camping spoke, I didn’t hear him.”
Some have noted that Camping’s prediction, while incorrect, jolted some believers into the kind of radical abandon for which the gospel calls. That’s a misunderstanding of scripture, according to Ransey.
“The radical call of the gospel doesn’t mean dropping everything in an irresponsible manner,” said Ransey, who left a lucrative career in the NBA to become a preacher. “It means answering God’s question, ‘Can you do what I tell you, when I tell you?’”
Like Chandler, Bishop Allene Jackson referred to the 24th chapter of Matthew as evidence that the end may be nigh, but not tonight.
“So many people are yet to hear the true gospel of Christ,” said Jackson, who serves at Temple of Compassion and Deliverance in Tupelo.
Matthew 24:14 reads, “... this gospel shall be preached in all the world ... then shall the end come.”
Advances in technology may hasten the spread of the gospel to all people, Jackson said, but Christians shouldn’t take their hands off the plow just yet.
There’s missionary work to be done, she said, adding, as Paul admonishes in 2 Thessalonians 3, that she was particularly bothered that some quit their jobs and abandoned their responsibilities in anticipation of the end.
“At least let him (Jesus) catch you working,” said Jackson, laughing. Destructive ignorance
Bishop Theodis Kimbrough believes Camping might have been both sincere and sincerely wrong, but there’s a Satanic element at play, nonetheless.
“Satan takes advantage of those who have a lesser understanding,” said Kimbrough, pastor of Greater New Beginnings Church in Hamilton, Ala.
Kimbrough also mentioned Matthew 24, which speaks of “false Christs and false prophets.” He stopped short of calling Camping either.
A person might consider it egocentric to think that Jesus will return in his own lifetime, said Kimbrough. On the other hand, there’s 2 Peter 3:3-4, which says, “In the last days, scoffers will come to scoff ... saying ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’”
Christians shouldn’t, therefore, ridicule a man like Camping, Kimbrough said, but neither should they allow his delusion to distract them from diligent prayer and study.
Down deep, Kresta McIntosh just knows God isn’t quite ready to put an end to the world.
“I believe God has made me some promises, houses I didn’t build, wells I didn’t dig. All this hasn’t been manifested yet in my life,” said McIntosh, referring, as did Jackson, to the good work yet to be done.
“We are the lights of this world,” said McIntosh, the executive secretary at Temple of Compassion and Deliverance. “There are still people I haven’t gotten to yet.”
McIntosh reads promises for the future in her Bible. “For I know the plans I have for you,” she said, quoting Jeremiah 29:11, which continues, “... plans to give you hope.”
John Cevdar isn’t quick to criticize, but based on his own prayer and study, he didn’t take Camping seriously.
“I don’t think the Lord is in any rush,” said Cevdar, a member of Good News Church in Tupelo. Like many, Cevdar believes natural disasters are in some way suggestive of the birth pangs scripture says will occur during the end times, but there’s no way to tell how far along the world is.
Cevdar believes in contemporary prophecy, and tries to cultivate a good sense of where the Holy Spirit is leading him, but he admits it’s a subjective understanding.
“I go by things that have happened to me in relation to my faith, where I was, what I’ve been through and the goodness of the Lord,” said Cevdar.
“If the Holy Spirit doesn’t move me,” as was the case, Cevdar said, with Camping’s prediction, “I pay no attention.”
Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or firstname.lastname@example.org