"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Camping's Doomsday Fail

Yes, I know the book was written by Robert Fitzpatrick.  Read on.

If time were not an issue, I would really like to take this "Doomsday Code" book and debunk each and every issue one at a time. There is so much wrong with the book that explains how someone can come up with such egregious nonsense about prophecy, that it could not all possibly be dealt with in a single post or even a three part series.  It would take nearly the same number of pages as the book (about 380) to explain all the error.  This post is going to have to stay narrower in scope than that.  It's still a very long post.

First, I don't expect anyone who is not interested in Biblical prophecy to understand much of what I'm going to explain because many of the concepts, references, and language will be foreign to the average Christian, let alone a non-believer.  If you are not familiar with terms like pre-tribulational, post-millennial, dispensation, preterist, eschatology, replacement theology, and the like, you will be lost in this essay. For this essay to be an easy read, you would need to be familiar with the arguments surrounding these terms.

Second, one would need to know the history of end-time prophecy failures going back to 1988.  Amazingly, the author of the Doomsday Code defends the failures of those predictions.  Robert Fitzpatrick is not an original thinker.  It has become obvious to everyone who follows heretical teaching, and especially heretical teaching about prophecy, that Fitzpatrick is nothing more than a hired pen for Harold Camping.  I may simply refer to the false doctrine of this book from here on out as belonging to Camping.

Thirdly, I would like to make the main issue of this essay to be understanding how such bad doctrine comes about and thrives. How does the believer rightly discern truth from Scripture and avoid looking stupid and carrying the Lord's name in vain. That is where the focus of the believer ought to be.  And yes, that really is the meaning of the third of the ten commandments

Let's start with an amazing quote from Fitzpatrick's book:

"For one thing, we need to understand that every word of the Bible, in the original language in which it was written, is the word of God. In 2 Timothy 3:16, we read: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:"
The original Greek, translated in this scripture as “given by inspiration of God,” carries the idea that scripture is “God breathed.” It's as if each word came from the mouth of God. God also took care to be sure that the Bible was preserved in tact [sic]- every word of it - down through the ages. He raised up a class of Jewish scribes who faithfully and accurately copied out the exact words, checking and rechecking so that there would be no error. If we come across a scripture that appears to contradict something else we have read in the Bible, we need to dig (and pray!) a bit deeper for understanding. . . .  By examining the way a word is used elsewhere in the Bible, you may be better able to understand the sense in which it is used in a scripture you are studying. This approach to the Bible works because the Bible is a cohesive whole, all coming from a single source.  [from page xxii of the Introduction]

The problem is, Fitzpatrick proceeded to ignore all of that advice in writing the rest of the book.  In reading the book I discover that "Replacement Theology" and worse abounds.  This is the idea that the "Christian" church has replaced Israel in God's plan throughout the pages of the Bible and history.  This is a direct denial of what Paul wrote to Timothy in the above quote, it denies the clear teaching of Paul in his letter to the Romans, and denies the prophecies of Scripture about Israel that have yet to be fulfilled, such as Ezekiel 38, and of what was just quoted from the book.  An important rule of proper Biblical interpretation is that you cannot interpret the meaning of one verse to be in direct opposition to the meaning of any other verse.  For clarification's sake, we are talking about the understanding of meaning, and not interpretation of translation.

Another indispensible rule of interpretation is exegesis versus eisegesis.  Eisegesis is essentially reading the meaning that you want into the text.  Fitzpatrick actually prepares us for the fact that he is going to commit this crime in chapter two on page 15:

"The intended meaning of a scripture will be its spiritual meaning: that's what God is teaching us. Sometimes the spiritual meaning is extremely difficult to understand, especially because the apparent meaning ontradicts it."

Whenever somebody claiming to be a Bible teacher starts in with something like that, he had better have lots and lots of scholarship, reason, and logic to back up what he's trying to prove.  Even the most respected Jewish sages and Bible scholars in the Christian world know that a basic rule of interpretation is that any deeper, or "spiritual" meaning should never, never contradict the plain meaning of the text.

 Torah scholars going back centuries believe that there are four levels of meaning embedded in the Torah. Jewish scholars use the word PaRDeS, the Hebrew word for orchard,  to remember these four levels. The first is Peshat; the plain, literal reading of the text. It is most often understood to be "simple" or the simple path.  The idea is that while you can enjoy all the other stuff along the path, the path keeps you from getting lost.  If you stray too far out into the weeds, you lose the correct way.  When you start coming up with interpretations where you change words or redefine them from their plain meaning, you can make the text say anything you want to and devolve into a bunch of nonsense.  The following three levels of exegesis must follow from the first level and not contradict it.  This is the heart of exegesis, the meaning of which is to draw out the meaning that the author intended.  All proper Biblical understanding flows from the idea that we are to avoid reading into the text what we would like for it to mean, and instead, we search out to understand the meaning as God Himself intended.

The next level of understanding is Remez. This refers to "hints" or more deep and allegorical meaning of the text without changing the plain meaning of the text.  For example; many of the events of Joseph's life directly hint at the events of Yeshua's (Jesus') life.  That doesn't mean that Joseph or the events that happened to him or Egypt, or Jacob and his sons are to be taken as anything other than literal events, but those events were a foreshadowing of the coming, suffering, Messiah.  The same applies to Moses.

The third level of understanding is called the Derash, which means "to dig", and a teaching on this level is referred to as a "midrash." Most of what we know to be the Jewish religious traditions are the result of midrashic explanation of the Torah.  Yeshua agreed with the vast majority of the midrashic teaching that was followed by the pharisees of His day.  Only where it departed from the plain meaning of the text of Torah did He correct them.  Most midrashic teaching is based on broad understanding of quite a few texts of Scripture and not some extrapolated conjecture based on just one or two verses.  Midrashic teachings on Scripture are always considered debatable and never carry the weight of infallible dogma.  However, some of it has become so well accepted as truth over the centuries that nobody has a reason to question it.

The fourth and last level is called Sod (rhymes with "mode") and is the esoteric level,  really deep meaning that the sages derive.  An example could be the belief that women are just naturally more spiritual than men and that is why they are exempt from many of the rules such as wearing tzitzit and praying three times a day at specific times as the orthodox do.  This is where the Qabbalistic writings come from and they are not intended for those who are not deeply grounded in basic Torah study, even though they too, are never supposed to violate the Peshat understanding of Scripture.

There is so much wrong with Camping's interpretations of Scripture because he so blatantly violates the rules of exegesis.  In a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black we have this quote from page 210:

"These false apostles, deceitful workers, are church leaders who appear to be ministers of righteousness but who are actually ministers of Satan! Just as the early church was being “seeded” with tares - people who looked like true believers but were not - the early church was also being infiltrated by false apostles. Now you may be wondering if this situation which occurred ages ago may have been corrected, so that the church could go on to a glorious future until the end of time. Sadly, that is not the case."

Then, incredibly, on page 211, he quotes the passage from 2 Thess. 2:1-4 which explains why he is wrong about the Doomsday prediction.  I will come back to that passage in a moment, because that is the passage which I will use to prove why Camping is wrong and how badly he departs from exegesis.

See this quote from page 229:

"Incredibly, the entire focus of these annual feasts is on the Lord Jesus. It is so sad that, even today, many Jews all around the world are so careful to keep these feast days but are unaware of their significance."

Let me tell you what is sad.  That people who claim to be followers of the Messiah have abandoned God's appointed feasts on His designated calendar and cannot begin to understand their true significance because they have trashed thousands of years of hard earned Jewish wisdom and understanding and bought into some idea that Yeshua came and created a whole new religion.  But Camping's doctrine gets even worse.

In spite of what he wrote in the introduction, Fitzpatrick goes on to say the following on pages 266-267:

"Many people read Mark 13:32 and understand it to mean that the timing - the day and the hour of the rapture - cannot possibly be known because not even the Son of God knows it; but the scripture can't have that meaning.  [Warning! - Warning! - Warning! Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!  Where's the html code that let's me make this insert flash?]  The Lord Jesus must know the timing. Remember, it was He who wrote the Bible. He is the Word of God and He is God. It was He who told Daniel to “seal the book” to the time of the end; and it was He who unsealed that book (the Bible), as we read in Revelation 5. It was only after the book was unsealed in these latter days that we learned the timing of God's plan. The Lord Jesus, therefore, must have known the timing; but if that is so, we must search to understand the meaning of the scripture telling us the Son does not know of “that day and that hour.”

I've been in the world of Christendom long enough to understand most all of the doctrinal positions from original sin to transubstantiation in the eucharist.  I understand the trinitarian doctrine, but when you carry it to an extreme that causes you to contradict direct statements of Scripture, such as the one above, then there is a serious problem with your doctrine.  You don't search to understand (read re-interpret) the Scripture to make it work with your doctrine and your desire to know something that God has repeatedly made clear that you cannot know.

While we cannot know the day or the hour, we can pay attention to the signs.  Yeshua did give us the signs to look for so as to know that the time is getting closer.  He told us to watch and pray.  I could go through a list of things, but many of them could be considered vague or ambiguous.  I don't need many or even a few to demonstrate why Camping's prediction was doomed to failure.  My example also proves pre-tribulationalist doctrine wrong as well.  There isn't going to be two second comings of Messiah as required by pre-trib doctrine; some secret catching away and then some months or days or years later Messiah comes back to administer justice.

Paul made it clear that there was one event that the believers could look for that had to happen before the "catching away of the saints" (in Greek it is called the harpazo).  It helps to make sure that we understand the full context of Paul's statement.  In Paul's first letter to the Thessolonians, he is explaining how the new believers need not worry about the fate of those who have died.  He does this by giving the details of what will happen when the Lord comes back for his own and brings about the resurrection of the dead.  The key details make it clear that everyone can know that the event is happening.  "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; . . ."  This statement is in agreement with the angels who spoke to the disciples at Messiah's ascension. That Yeshua would come down the same way he went up.  Other Scripture confirms that the conquering King Messiah would touch down on the Mount of Olives.  The point here is that Paul is talking about the triumphal return of Messiah at the "end days."  Paul continues: "and the dead in Messiah shall rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord." (1 Thess. 4:16-17)

We can surmise from the text that someone or some group was causing the believers in Thessolonica to worry that they had missed the return of Messiah.  By this time in the first century, there were already heretics who were teaching all sorts of bizarre doctrines about Messiah and the way of salvation.  People who tried to blend beliefs from the pagan religions or that you had to prove complete adherence to all the Jewish traditions in order to earn salvation.  The problem is, it didn't stop even after Paul's first letter.  Therefore, he had to write a second letter, reasserting his authority and warning that those who taught false doctrine about the return of Messiah would suffer judgment "on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, . . ."  And continuing in his second letter on this very same subject, he now gives the Thessalonicans more details about the second coming so that they can rest assured what to look for and how not to be fooled by false prophets.  Here is the text:

"Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come."

Let's be perfectly clear in our understanding  of the subject.  Paul uses three distinct features to make sure that we are talking about one, single event.  The coming of Messiah; or in Greek the parousia.  The gathering together to Him; which is in Greek the harpazo, or "catching away."  Both of these features being part of "the day of the Lord" which is a very specific phrase repeated throughout prophetic Scripture to describe when God comes to earth in final judgment.  Bear in mind that Paul spent time with these people as he described in the first letter, teaching them and building them up as a congregation.  He expected them to understand what he was saying.  He chose his words carefully (or you could say the Holy Spirit was choosing the words carefully since this was meant to be Scripture for all believers into the future and we were all supposed to learn from it.).  Paul continues:

"Let no one in any way deceive you, for *it* will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction."

Stop and be sure  you understand what the pronoun *it* is referring to.  One should not need an advanced degree in language to comprehend that *it* is referring to the event described in verses one and two of the second chapter of 2nd Thessalonians.  Any reader who does not understand that, needs to seek remedial reading instruction as soon as possible.

Verse three also tells us what the two things are that must occur before the parousia, harpazo, and the "day of the Lord" can happen.  While the apostasy might not be something that everyone can agree on in easily definable terms, the "man of lawlessness" is pretty much understood by all believers to be THE anti-Christ, or the final archtype Antichrist.  He wasn't the first of his kind.  Paul wrote those verses being fully aware of Antiochus Epiphanes and what he did in the Temple at Jerusalem.  Such was considered an "abomination of desolation" which required the cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple.  The miracle of that re-dedication is why we celebrate Channukah today.   But this Antichrist is defined by Paul in verse nine as having all the power of Satan, being able to perform miracles and wonders.
In verse four, Paul explains that this Antichrist, this man, will exalt himself above all gods and will take his seat in the Temple, declaring himself to be the only god.  Such an event would be another "abomination of desolation" and fitting the description given by Messiah Himself in Matthew 24:15 as part of the answer to the direct questions of the disciples about the sign of His coming and the end of the age.  Read the whole 24th chapter of Matthew.

Paul thus exhorts the believers at Thessalonica that unless this event of another evil man, the final evil man with the power of Satan, coming into the Temple and desecrating it happens for all to see, keeping with the prophecy of Messiah Himself, there would be no return of Messiah.  End of story.

In wrapping this whole issue up, I can state with the utmost confidence that I don't need to re-define any plain readings of Scripture to make it say what it doesn't say. I  come to the clear conclusion that while "no man can know the day nor the hour" of the return of Messiah or the actual moment that begins the "day of the Lord," I not only can, but I am exhorted by Scripture to know and watch for the signs that must take place before Messiah returns.  So, all you pre-tribbers out there reading this: you have been warned.  You see, the Scripture teaches that Messiah's return, and our "catching away" or rapture, and the beginning of the "day of the Lord" cannot happen until the events that Paul and the Messiah described.  Those events cannot happen until a Temple has been built and is in service in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount.  The "Holy place" is the Holy of Holies.  You can allegorize it away as being or representing something else, but you do so to your own detriment.

The biggest problem with this whole mess is that it gives skeptics of the Bible something to laugh at.  They won't say that Harold Camping and Robert Fitzpatrick were wrong about what the Bible teaches.  They'll say that all of those Christians who believe in that silly Bible are all a bunch of idiots.  They will mock God and ridicule the Bible.

All those who claim allegiance to Messiah are called upon to study and show themselves to be faithful disciples, understanding the Word of God properly and leading others to salvation, not creating opportunities for evil to seem successful.

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Shalom Y'all

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