By Justin Berton | SFGate.com
For about 10 years I knew a man by the name of Edgar C. Whisenant in Little Rock. He gave me some material to read and I told him that it was wrong to predict the exact date and time of Christ second coming and he got quite mad when I asserted that. Today we have the exact same thing going on with another preacher.
I predict that Harold Camping, the elderly radio talk show host now predicting Judgment Day on May 21, 2011, and the end of the world October 21, 2011, will adjust his predictions to future dates after doing further calculations on May 22, 2011.
I believe my prediction will most certainly take place because “no one knows the day or the hour,” according to Jesus. Since Camping is working from the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 and the account of Noah’s great flood, I assume he can and will come up with calculations to support new dates for the world’s demise.
William Miller, a sometimes Baptist preacher, predicted the end of the world no later than March 21, 1844. He adjusted his prediction after the fateful day passed without incident, lighting on numerous other dates in 1844.
Edgar C. Whisenant predicted that the rapture of the church would occur Sept. 13, 1988. As an American pastor, I received his free booklet, “88 Reasons,” which I keep as a more recent example of misguided apocalyptic fervor. Whisenant was insightful enough to realize that his date had passed without incident, so he then predicted Sept. 15, 1988; then Oct. 3, 1988; and then again selected a day in 1989, 1990 and 1991. By then no one was listening.
So why are we listening to the presumptuous Camping? He thinks all churches were abandoned by God and conquered by Satan on May 21, 1988, his own un-churched and unaffiliated status apparently providing him protection.
This is Camping’s second go-around for predicting the end of the world. His book “1994?” postulated the end of days in 1994 with a tad more humility. He thought at that time he could be wrong, but apparently all uncertainty has passed.
I first encountered Camping’s date on a huge billboard in Accra, Ghana. Similar signs in downtown New Orleans encourage us to “save the date.” Seminary students here are discussing the prediction, and various Christian ministries have gotten on board with Camping just as Trinity Broadcasting partnered with Whisenant in 1988.
Expectation of the return of Jesus Christ and the end of the age is an historic part of orthodox Christian theology. It should keep Christians future-oriented and eager to see God’s unfolding plan. It gives hope beyond human strength and wisdom. And it provides confines for human history that exalt the role of God in the world and set all human effort in the context of God’s sovereign rule.
Setting dates for the end of the world is a truly bad idea. While it may remind us of God’s ultimate authority, it also disappoints and disillusions those who assume the prediction to be true. I have personally witnessed the flagging enthusiasm of those who thought they knew when the end would come.
The prophets generally profit from their prediction in various ways but often recover nicely despite the inevitable disappointment. The average person who is caught up in the excitement of the final day leaves the whole ordeal with a bad taste in his mouth.
Judgment Day is coming because justice is an eternal quality of our eternal God. May 21, 2011, is a great day to hope in God’s sovereign rule and continue your faithful routines. If the end of the world should catch you in the classroom or at work instead of on the mountain, you will be found faithful.
David Crosby is pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans. This column first appeared at SBCToday.com.
Edgar C. Whisenant (September 25, 1932 – May 16, 2001), was a former NASA engineer and Bible student who predicted the Rapture would occur in 1988, sometime between Sept. 11 and Sept. 13. He published two books about this: 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988 and On Borrowed Time. Eventually, 300,000 copies of 88 Reasons were mailed free of charge to ministers across America, and 4.5 million copies were sold in bookstores and elsewhere. Whisenant was quoted as saying “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town,” and “[I]f there were a king in this country and I could gamble with my life, I would stake my life on Rosh Hashana 88.” 
Whisenant’s predictions were taken seriously in some parts of the evangelical Christian community. As the great day approached, regular programming on the Christian Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) was interrupted to provide special instructions on preparing for the Rapture.
When the predicted Rapture failed to occur, Whisenant followed up with later books with predictions for various dates in 1989, 1993, and 1994. These books did not sell in quantity. Whisenant continued to issue various Rapture predictions through 1997, but gathered little attention.
Here are the other posts I had on this same subject:
Yahoo News reported this morning: It’s hard to feel bad for someone whose doomsday predictions caused so much anxiety, but 89-year-old Harold Camping’s recent admission that he’s “flabbergasted” the world didn’t end last weekend sounds somewhat pitiful. “It has been a really tough weekend,” Camping said Sunday, after emerging from his Alameda, California home […]
(Photo: Reuters/Reuters TV) Harold Camping, 89, the California evangelical broadcaster who predicts that Judgment Day will come on May 21, 2011, is seen in this still image from video during an interview at Family Stations Inc. offices in Oakland, California May 16, 2011. The U.S. evangelical Christian broadcaster predicting that Judgment Day will come on […]
I am a Christian and I do believe Jesus is coming back. In fact, at noon today in Little Rock, the skies got dark and it looked like it was midnight. I am sure the Harold Camping followers were expecting something like this. However, it is 2:53pm now and the skies are much brighter. […]
I love the Book of Daniel and have spent a lot of time studying it. I noticed a gentleman making a lot of copies of his notes on the Book of Daniel, and I asked what he was studying. That man was Edgar Whisenant and he began to tell me that he knew the […]
By Justin Berton | SFGate.com For about 10 years I knew a man by the name of Edgar C. Whisenant in Little Rock. He gave me some material to read and I told him that it was wrong to predict the exact date and time of Christ second coming and he got quite mad when I asserted […]