I told Edgar Whisenant he was wrong, and now Harold Camping is making the same mistake

By Justin Berton | SFGate.com


I love the Book of Daniel and have spent a lot of time studying it. 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.

May 21 David Crosby wrote for the Baptist Press today: 

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.


Wikipedia notes:

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.” [1][2]

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:

Harold Camping “flabbergasted” he was wrong

  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 […]

Southern Baptist leader says that Harold Camping should apologize

(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 […]

Harold Camping’s silly billboards and calculations here

  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. […]

Both Harold Camping and Edgar Whisenant ignored Matthew 24:36

  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 […]

I told Edgar Whisenant he was wrong, and now Harold Camping is making the same mistake

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 […]

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  • Za  On April 22, 2019 at 9:43 am

    Why are we listening to Jesus then? He said the apocalypse would happen during the lifetimes of his disciples. He was wrong.

    Why eschew Camping for his errors and not Jesus?

    • Everette Hatcher III  On May 6, 2019 at 11:32 pm

      Gleason Archer said it best:

      Did Jesus mean in Matthew 24:34 that all the signs of His second coming were really fulfilled before His generation passed away?
      Matthew 24:34 reports our Lord as saying, “Truly I say to you, this generation [genea] will not pass away until all these things take place” (NASB). What things? The rise of false teachers and prophets, the persecution and martyrdom of believers, and all the horrors of the Great Tribulation will occur (vv. 9-22). Also, there will be false Christs, deceitful miracles, and strange phenomena in the heavens (vv. 23-29). Then at last the “sign of the Son of Man” (v.30) will appear in the heavens; and all the world will witness His return to earth with power and great glory, when he sends forth His angels to gather together all the “elect” from every part of the earth.
      Obviously these apocalyptic scenes and earth-shaking events did not take place within the generation of those who heard Christ’s Olivet discourse. Therefore Jesus could not have been referring to His immediate audience when He made His prediction concerning “this genea.” What did He mean by this prophecy?
      There are two possible explanations. One is that genea (“generation”) was used as a synonym of genos (“race,” “stock,” “nation,” “people”). This would then amount to a prediction that the Jewish race would not pass out of existence before the Second Advent. Whatever other races would die out before that event–and most of the races contemporaneous with Jesus of Nazareth have in fact died out already–the Jewish race, however persecuted and given from one country to another, would survive until our Lord’s return. No other nation has ever managed to live through all the dispersions and persecutions and uprooted conditions to which the Jews have been subjected. Yet they live on until this day and have reestablished their independence in the State of Israel. Although this meaning for genea is not common, it is found as early as Homer and Herodotus and as late as Plutarch (cf. H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th ed., [Oxford: Claredon, 1940], p. 342).
      The other possibility is that genea does indeed mean “generation” in the usual sense of the word, but refers to the generation of observers who witness the beginning of the signs and persecutions with which the Tribulation will begin. Many of these will live to see the Lord Jesus come back to earth, as Conqueror and Judge, with great power and glory. This interpretation has the merit of preserving the more common and usual meaning of the word. But it suffers from the disadvantage of predicting what would normally be expected to happen anyway. Whether the Tribulation will last for seven years or for a mere three and a half years, it would not be so unusual for most people to survive that long. Seven years is not a very long time to live through, even in the face of bloody persecution.
      Perhaps it should be added that if the Olivet Discourse was originally delivered in Aramaic (as it probably was), then we cannot be certain that the meaning of this prediction hinged entirely on the Greek word used to translate it. Genea and genos are, after all, closely related words from the same root. The Aramaic term that Jesus Himself probably used (the Syriac Peshitta uses sharbeta’ here, which can mean either “generation” or “race”) is susceptible to either interpretation, and thus could mean the Jewish “race rather than the circle of Christ’s own contemporaries.

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