Local pastors doubt prediction that Judgment Day is Saturday

Posted May 19, 2011, at 8 p.m.
Last modified May 20, 2011, at 6:12 a.m.
Harold Camping
AP FILE
Harold Camping

The Rev. Matthew Ward, senior pastor of Charleston Pentecostal Church, has been warning the groom of the couple he will marry Saturday night about their chances of survival — and not the matrimonial kind.

“We’ve been telling him it’s all going to be over,” Ward joked Thursday.

The minister’s teasing is about more than the planned nuptials.

Harold Camping, an 89-year-old evangelist based in Oakland, Calif., has announced that Judgment Day will come on Saturday, May 21.

“It is absolutely going to happen,” he has told reporters from around the world. “We do not have a Plan B at all. There is no possibility that it will not happen because all our information comes from the Bible.”

Camping, whose Family Radio broadcasts are heard in 61 languages, claims to have followers around the world. He and like believers have done mass mailings, advertised on billboards and dispatched followers to spread the word, according to previously published reports.

The beginning of the end supposedly will start with an earthquake that will rumble around the planet Saturday, hitting Charleston about the time Ward says, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Millions will die on that first day, according to Camping, but the righteous will fly up to heaven and Christ will return to Earth.

Five months of fire, brimstone and plagues, with millions dying each day, will follow. Then, on Oct. 21, the world will end as the Book of Revelation has predicted it will — with a bottomless pit, a lake of fire and, finally, a new heaven and earth.

Many Americans believe Christ’s reappearance is relatively imminent. A poll conducted last year by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 41 percent of Americans expected Jesus would return before 2040.

“The minute somebody identifies a date, that’s not when it’s going to be,” the Rev. Lyman “Terry” Phillips, president of Grace Evangelical College and Seminary in Bangor, said Thursday. “Even Jesus Christ said when he was here in the flesh that he didn’t know when the end would come.

“The  Book of Revelation just keeps us aware that there is an end,” he continued. “Science uses the word ‘entropy,’ and wrapped up in that word is the idea that things wind down. Everything is going to wind down, but God has something beyond that for those who accept the invitation that goes with theology.”

The Book of Revelation was written by John the Apostle, Phillips noted. The image of the end of the world, the second coming of Christ and the New Jerusalem came to John in vivid visions.

While many preachers over the past 2,000 years have forecast the end was near, predictions have increased since the creation of Israel in 1948. That, many have said, fulfilled one of the important prophecies in Revelation.

Several evangelical ministers in Penobscot County said this week that although Camping’s prediction has garnered a lot of media attention, all have services scheduled for Sunday.

Ken Graves, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel in Orrington, said Wednesday that if Camping believed his own prediction, he should have willed all of his assets to other ministries.

“I really think that the intention of the Lord Jesus was for every generation to live with expectancy — that it can happen at any time,” he said. “We should be ready to live for 100 years and ready to die today.”

Ward said that all of the attention paid to Camping’s prediction has revealed something about the American public.

“What I have taken out of this is that are are so many biblically illiterate people in the country, because anyone with basic Bible knowledge knows that none of [what Camping says] lines up with Scripture,” he said. “There is a serious spiritual condition being revealed about the world.”

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