The End of the World is Big Business

About four years ago, I was driving from Virginia to Texas and saw a billboard ad proclaiming May 21, 2011 to be the date of the "rapture". I remember being startled by it and missing some of the details, then thinking I would never see or hear of this again. But I did see it again. I can't remember how many I saw billboards like it on the way, but it was often enough that something I would normally have dismissed and paid no attention to became intriguing, and I was interested in knowing the story behind these billboards.

For the record, I wasn't in the least convinced that any date proclaimed on a billboard would be authentic, but it was the first time in my life that I had seen someone take the "Burma Shave" approach to advertising an apocalypse. It struck me that there must be a lot of money behind this operation, and where there's a lot of money, there's likely a lot of people making big sacrifices for something they think is very important. With that, of course, comes the strong likelihood of many disappointments, both quantitative and qualitative.

After some research, I found out that this national billboard campaign announcing the end of times was being headed up by Harold Camping, a man who had taken a survey of the Scriptures, particularly prophecy and even more particularly the prophecies of Daniyel (Daniel), and had come up with the numbers he felt certain indicated the date of the so-called "rapture".  What's more, he had made several of these prophecies before, and of course as we know, none of them had come to pass.  Here he was at it again.

It seems a bit odd to me that someone can search almost the entirety of the Tanakh ("Old Testament") and the Ketuvim Netzarim ("New Testament") for any available numbers that he can plug into his own self-styled equations to figure out the end of the world, and yet somehow miss one of the most telling parts of the Torah itself, namely Devarim (Deuteronomy), in which YHWH tells Mosheh the following:
"And when you say in your heart, ‘How do we know the word which YHWH has not spoken?’, when the prophet speaks in the Name of YHWH and the word is not, or comes not, that is the word which Yahweh has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him." (Devarim / Deuteronomy 18:21-22).
Or, in more contemporary English:
"You may be asking yourselves, 'How can we tell if a prophet's message really comes from YHWH?' You will know, because if YHWH says something will happen, it will happen. And if it doesn't, you will know that the prophet was falsely claiming to speak for YHWH. Don't be afraid of any prophet whose message doesn't come from YHWH." (Devarim / Deuteronomy 18:21-22).
I believe this should give individuals who carelessly make pronouncements in the name of YHWH great pause. This startling statement of the obvious was clearly missed in this prophetic numbers game that Camping and his followers were playing.  It doesn't matter if you believe in the Torah or specifically the Sefer Devarim, it suffices to acknowledge that Harold Camping does, or at least claims to do so, and so any point that these verses made would be extremely apt to him and his followers. He's now relegated (again) to the status of someone who speaks presumptuously for the Elohim that he claims to serve, and by that Elohim's own words, he cannot be relied on to speak for Him. That's not a condemnation from me at all, rather, it's something that comes out of the testimony that both he and I subscribe to, available to anyone with an internet connection and access to Google, or a dresser drawer with a Gideon's Bible.  Mr. Camping may have been sincere in his belief that his calculations from Sefer Daniyel among other portions of the Scriptures were authentic, but he missed the mark again, and once again took some people on the ill-fated journey with him.

This is the age of reality television, an age when the misfortunes of others are the fodder of entertainment, and it's tempting to laugh at the spectacle. I was doing that all those years ago, before the set time approached, something of which I am somewhat ashamed in retrospect, but now that all of that excitement over the events is long gone with the passing of years, I'm not finding the situation of those people who staked so very much on what turned out to be so very little to be all that funny. There are pieces to pick up for these people who staked their lives, reputations, jobs, and property on what they mistakenly thought was a revelation.  There were plenty of sincere followers who were left without quite a bit of their money, time, and self-esteem, and I don't think it's a stretch to believe that many of them lost their faith.  Mr. Camping was the instigator of this great loss.  The honorable thing to do would have been to return what is left of the money and just admit that he has received no revelations about the precise time of the end, that he was speaking presumptuously, and that it is an error he will not repeat.  I believe he did most of the latter, but I never heard about the issue of the money.  I would, of course, be very (pleasantly) surprised to hear that such a return ever occurred.

I hope that any of us who have made a commitment to wait for YHWH understand just what it means to wait for Him.  It means that we won't know exact dates.  It means that we won't know exact times.  It means we won't know the exact sequence of events.  We are tasked to watch for current events with respect to revelation, and yet remain balanced enough to avoid jumping onto every bandwagon that comes our way declaring the end of the world.  We have to work hard not to be taken in, to be responsible for how we allow our resources to be used, to ensure that we are not party to any deception.  We have to take both the encouragements and the warnings of Yeshua seriously, as he related in his so-called "Olivet Prophecy" (Mattityahu / Matthew 24, Marqos / Mark 13, Luqas / Luke 21).  Most of that sequence is about patience, caution, and being on our guard against deception and corruption, as we wait confidently for the end we are certain will come despite not knowing how or when.  And we must do all of this while we strive to keep our garments white and clean, keeping ourselves free from the corruption of the world around us.

And that includes the corruption of money, because the end of the world has always been big business for those caught up in that love affair.  Mr. Camping passed away mid-December, 2013, so he's no longer here to make any amends that he hadn't already made, but I do hope that those like Mr. Camping can see that their talents to persuade need to be reigned in by some common sense and decency before the Living Elohim.  And I certainly hope that it doesn't escape the realization of any false prophecy profiteer that purposefully profiting from false alarms will be an act of particular interest when YHWH does come someday as a righteous judge.  One certainly doesn't have to be a prophet to see that.

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