What we can learn from failed Doomsday prophets

False Prophets and Prophecies

Watching the spectacle of doomsday unfold, I was taken back to the 1980s. It was 1984 or 85 when a rare occurrence was taking place in the heavens. Several planets were lining up with the earth. I don’t remember the details or how many planets made up the chain, but I do remember the false prophets and doomsday doctrines spreading fear in a similar fashion as we saw yesterday, May 21st, 2011.

People were quoting out of context scriptures and using phrases like, “You will see signs in the heavens.” As was the case with Harold Camping’s followers, doomsday advocates warned everyone that the rapture and judgment were coming. The rapture was to come at the exact moment the planets aligned. In the 1980s spectacle, believers climbed on their rooftops and waited for the rapture. They shrugged off ridicule from neighbors and naysayers knowing they would be snatched away at any moment. Morning came and dejected believers climbed off their houses to face embarrassment of being wrong amid the snickers of skeptics.

People forget and new false prophets will arise

Memories will fade and a new enlightened false prophets will arise to draw disciples after themselves, and the process will start again. Perhaps this should be a learning experience. What went wrong? How do we know what the truth is? Someone posted a question to me asking, “Who are you to decide which prophet is wrong, or which interpretation is wrong? The Bible can be interpreted many ways, so who is to say which is the right way?”

In the aftermath of this public spectacle, it might be beneficial to answer this question. Many asked how could I have been so certain when I posted the reasons why yesterday’s prophecy was destined to fail. I won’t answer that question again since my last post addresses that. But I will answer the question as to how we know which interpretation is correct. The answer to this question is the guard against future spectacles. The world rejoices when the church is made into a group of fools. Whether you believed Camping or not, you are still ‘one of those Christians’ in the eyes of the world.

False Prophets are often deceived themselves

The first clue came from the video posted by Robert Fitzpatrick. He was the author of ‘The Doomsday Code’, avid Camping follower, and the one being berated at Time Square after 6:00 p.m. passed by without an earthquake or rapture. In an interview he posted on the internet, he made the following comment, “People read a verse that says, ‘No one will know the day nor the hour,’ and they stop there. But you have to go a little deeper and do some digging.”

Let’s stop here and think about what he said. There are many things wrong with the predictions of his video, but rather than rebutting, let’s look at the foundation of the problem. When the disciples asked Jesus when the end would come, His answer was that no one knows. Not the angels, not men, not even the Son. Only the Father knows. When Jesus rose from the grave, his disciples again asked a question about the future. “Will you now restore the kingdom?” His answer was, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put under his own authority.”

In every situation where end times were mentioned, the Bible makes it clear that we are to be watching always so we are ready, but it is not given for man to know when God plans to fulfill all things. Our role is not to know the times, but to walk in a Christ centered life.

This helps to identify the root of the problem. False prophets places their authority over the word. Followers will place the prophet above the word. In scripture we see Jesus saying, ‘you cannot know’, and the way of error says, ‘you can’t stop there, you have to dig deeper and find out the hidden secrets.’

Why dig deeper? If Jesus said, “It is not for you to know,” then we should stop there. Why try to root out what God has plainly stated he will not reveal to us. Sure you can dig out secrets and hidden things. All false prophets discover hidden knowledge they claim to only have the power to interpret. However, since God said he will not reveal, what they find cannot be from God.

You Can Know

You can know the truth and each person can interpret the scriptures accurately. To the question, who can know, the answer is simple. But that answer is based on what God has plainly stated. 2 Peter 1:20-21

20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,
21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

Knowing this first. What Peter explains to the church begins with this basic truth. Anything you see in scripture was given by the Holy Spirit and is interpreted according to the Holy Spirit, and is plain to all. It isn’t a secret you discover, but the scripture is the plainly stated word of God. The word ‘prophecy’ doesn’t mean prediction. The word comes from ‘propheteia’ and means: divinely inspired declarations of God’s purposes. That could include the foretelling of future events in scripture, but it applies to everything God has inspired through the word.

Camping, like many false prophets before him, claimed that these hidden truths were not discernable by anyone not given the gift to see it. Yet the Bible affirms that the word was given once for all believers, and is profitable to give doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction to the believer for the purpose of equipping you for every good work.

This is exactly why 1 John 2:26 begins by warning that there will be those trying to deceive you by claiming to have an anointing, but you do not need anyone to teach you because if you’re a child of God, you have the Holy Spirit and the anointing to know all things. This does not mean teaching doesn’t have a role, for the Bible explains that teachers are gifted and appointed by God for the purpose of equipping the saints. Equipping – not making people into dependents.

The message John is explaining is not that the church doesn’t need teachers, but that you as the individual Christian, are not dependent on a teacher to study the scriptures and discover God’s truth. And we know that what we discover will be consistent with the rest of the scriptures. Once someone claims to have an anointing the rest of us don’t have, it should be a red flag.

So how do we know what the correct interpretation is? According to the Bible, we must diligently study to show ourselves approved by God so we can rightly divide the word of truth. We rightly divide by first knowing the context of a passage. By context, we must know how it fits into the passages that surround it so we can understand the thought being communicated, and then how it fits into the context of the rest of the scriptures.

As with the case of all false prophets, the deception of Camping’s followers and the shameful spectacle that ensued came behind a consistent rejection of the warnings of scripture. When the Bible warned his followers, the leadership persuaded them to ignore the checks and guidance of scripture, and follow another way. Deception requires a willing participation. Anytime anyone is asked to bypass passages that contradict leaders, deception is at the door.

This will happen again. The Bible says that as the day draws near, many false teachers will arise and draw disciples after themselves. In each case, the deceived will have rejected the warnings of scripture in order to be led astray. Camping didn’t predict from the Bible. He added a timeline and formula he came up with to selected passages in order to predict. It was the Bible plus Harold Camping’s formula. The Bible + personal ideology = disaster.

Not all poor teachers are a false prophets, and not every mistake is an intentional deception, but we do know that the Bible corrects error. This is especially true when those propagating the error are among us. You can know the truth, but it requires diligently applying ourselves to the study of the word.

Diligently study so you are not led into error – and you know how to answer when difficult situations arise.

Eddie Snipes

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