News Commentary from a Biblical Perspective

Current Events and Eschatology

"When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him." Deuteronomy 18:22

Why was there no Rapture on May 21, 2011?

Harold Camping predicted that May 21, 2011, was "Judgment Day." On that day, Christ would return. There would be a mighty earthquake. The end of the world would begin. 200 million would be raptured (taken up to heaven).

As it turns out, Harold Camping was utterly wrong. Nothing of what he said would happen came to pass. On May 23, on Family Radio's Open Forum, he held a press conference. In his conference, he admitted he had been wrong. He had believed that Judgment Day would take place literally. It did not. Now he understands that Judgment Day did take place, but it was a spiritual event. He is still convinced that October 21, 2011 will mark the end of the world. At that time, the whole world will be destroyed, according to Camping. No one at the press conference asked him if he believed that would be a literal destruction or merely a spiritual destruction. That would have been a most appropriate question to ask.

At least Camping admitted that what he thought would happen literally, Judgment Day and the Rapture, did not literally happen. The truth is, no matter what Camping claims, the Rapture did not occur and Judgment Day did not occur.

What in Harold Camping's theology and reasoning resulted in such a catastrophic blunder on his part? Here are at least some of the reasons:

(1) Camping thinks we have been in the Tribulation. According to him, judgment came upon the churches on May 21, 1988. Since then, he believes, we have been in the Tribulation period and all churches are apostate. Clearly, Camping's arbitary teaching is in error. We have not been and are not in the Tribulation period. Jesus said that the Tribulation would be a time of unprecedented trouble (Matt. 24:21). In Revelation 7:14, an elder terms this yet future event "the tribulation, the great one." Jesus specified that the Tribulation period would consist of such signs as "the abomination of desolation" appearing in the "holy place" of the Jewish temple. That temple has not even yet been rebuilt, so how could the abomination of desolation appear therein? Jesus said that during the Tribulation, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matt. 24:14). That requirement has not been met. Paul revealed that the "man of lawlessness" would be revealed (2 Thess. 2:3), the "beast coming up from the sea" as identified by John (Rev. 13:1). This evil ruler will gain economic control of the entire world (Rev. 13:1-18). He will be the one who desecrates the rebuilt Jewish temple by seating himself within it and claiming to be God Himself (2 Thess. 2:3-5). So Camping is in error for believing that we have been in the Tribulation. The evidence disproves his position.

(2) Camping has confused the Rapture with Christ's Second Coming in Power. A careful reading of the New Testament reveals that Jesus will return to this earth in two stages.

First He will return to retrieve all of His followers from the world in this present Church Age and take them with Him back to His Father's house (John 14:1-6). We call this event the Rapture. Paul reveals that dead believers in Jesus will be resurrected from their graves and rise to meet the Lord in the air. Immediately thereafter, living believers in Jesus will be granted a miraculous transformation of their bodies into immortal, glorified bodies fit to inhabit eternity (1 Cor. 15:50-55; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Paul appropriately described this future event as the believer's "blessed hope" (Titus 2:11-13). After the Rapture, there will be a time of terrible trouble upon the earth. This time of trouble coincides with Daniel's 70th Seven of years, described in Daniel 9:24-27. Jesus described in considerable detail the traumatic events that would unfold during that time (Matt. 24:1-29). To John the Apostle were revealed devastating plagues that will be unleashed upon the world. As he saw it unfold, Jesus would break a seven-sealed scroll. With each successive breaking a destructive plague would be unleashed on the world. The seventh seal opened up into seven trumpet blasts by seven angels. At each successive blast, another plague would strike the earth. The seventh trumpet blast revealed seven angels, prepared to pour seven bowls of the wrath of God upon the earth. Two of the plagues together account for one-half the world's population being destroyed!

Second, after all these events, Jesus will return in great power to conquer earth and set up His Kingdom here. He will return, not to take His Church age followers with Him, but to descend all the way to earth and destroy all the enemy troops arrayed to fight him (Daniel 2:44-45; 7:9-14; Zechariah 12:1-9; 14:1-15; 2 Thess. 1:1-10; Rev. 19:11-21). Then He will judge all the survivors of the Tribulation (Ezek. 20:33-44; 36:22-37; Matthew 25:14-46). Then He will rule this present earth in justice and righteousness, seated upon the throne of His father David in Jerusalem, God's city of choice (Psalm 2; 110; Isaiah 2:1-4; 9:6-7; 11:1-16; 60:1-22; 66:8-23; Ezek. 37:24-28; 43:1-12; Luke 1:30-33; Rev. 20:1-6). The point I wish to make here is that there are no signs given that must be fulfilled prior to the Rapture, Jesus' return to retrieve His Bride, the Church. But there are a multitude of signs that must be fulfilled prior to His return to conquer His enemies and set up His kingdom upon the earth. The table below illustrates the sharp distinction between the two phases of Christ's return:

The Rapture - No Signs Precede Christ's Second Coming - Many Signs Precede
John 14:1-6
1 Cor. 15:50-58
1 Thess. 4:13-18
Tit. 2:11-13
Zech. 12 - 14
Matt. 24
Lk. 21:5-36
Rev. 6 - 19

See also: A Comparison of the Rapture and the Second Coming.


(Scripture quotation taken from the

 Published July 20, 2011

Subsequently updated July 23, 2016

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