It is coming. But it’s not 2012, despite what the Mayan calendar or The Bible Code tell you. First, a related story.
An Italian researcher has announced that he has found hidden symbolism in the “Mona Lisa.” Silvano Vinceti claims to have found letters and numbers in and around Mona, based on scanned and digitized high definition images of the painting, and perhaps a low definition but very active imagination.
I knew that Leonardo da Vinci was a genius, but it never occurred to me that he could hide his messages for a computer assisted researcher. Vincenti believes that he has clues to the true identity of the model. If so, we can put to rest other claims that “Mona Lisa” is a da Vinci self-portrait, and that his/her smile was actually due to either pregnancy or mourning.
Since allegedly hidden messages in famous works will get media attention, the claim to see hidden messages in the Bible is not surprising. But the claims about the Bible are far from harmless stories to fill up slow news days.
Harold Camping, a retired civil engineer, is now promoting his claim that Jesus will rapture about 200 million people on May 21 and that the world will end on October 21. Camping and his followers are using his Family Radio Worldwide network of more than 50 stations in the U.S. and others in foreign countries to spread the news.
In 1992 Camping’s book 1994? made similar predictions. He and several dozen followers gathered on September 6, 1994 to await Christ’s rapture. The fact that none left the ground prompted Camping to rationalize that he made an error in calculations. He now claims to have discovered previously hidden truths in the Bible that absolutely guarantee his interpretations are right this time.
Camping practices what I call “Duct Tape Theology.” He grabs a few unrelated verses, tapes them together with unwarranted assumptions and produces a wad of unbiblical conclusions. This is how he explains away Matthew 24:36 in which Jesus states that “no one knows the day or the hour.” He claims that Jesus’ statement no longer applies now that the end is imminent. God has miraculously revealed the exact timing to those Camping calls “true believers,” (i.e., himself).
Even before the Left Behind series was published I noticed that the one book of the Bible that non-Christians are interested in discussing is the book of Revelation. Underneath the fascination with the drama, I suspect there is an uneasy feeling that there really is a judgment day coming. However, as with previous rapture date-setters, Camping’s claims give unbelievers another excuse to dismiss the truth that they face judgment.
But Camping’s more serious error is to attack the Church itself. His radio network has always shunned affiliation with any church. Now he bluntly states that since “the Holy Spirit has abandoned all churches, those still following any church on May 21, 2011 are not saved.”
The Church is the body of Christ, (Eph. 1:22-23), and the Church is always connected in Scripture with Gospel- preaching and practicing local churches. At least 10 New Testament books were written to named local churches and three were written to local church pastors. The Biblical office of pastor or elder, which has never been revoked, makes no sense outside the local church. Camping is urging people to leave their churches in order to be saved. In reality, doing so would remove them from the protection of godly pastors who are commanded to guard them from the kind of foolishness that Camping purveys.
The best response for Christians is to increase their commitment to the local church where God has put them. For some, this means, “stop dating the church (and fall in love with the family of God”), as the title of Joshua Harris’s book puts it. For others, it means personally enriching the fellowship in ways like I suggested in an earlier post. For all of us, it means heeding the warning, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another , and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)