Question: "Is Harold Camping and Family Radio a cult?"
Answer: Family Radio started as a biblically based and theologically sound radio ministry in the mid-20th century. Sadly, at the leading of Harold Camping, Family Radio has forsaken its roots and become a purveyor of false teaching. While there is still some good programming on Family Radio, Camping’s teaching that the church age is over and his repeated failed “judgment day” predictions, along with the rabid and blind following he has developed, are certainly cult-like. While we are not yet prepared to declare Family Radio a cult, due to the leadership of Harold Camping, it is moving in that direction.
Harold Camping’s most recent failed “prophecy” that the rapture would occur on May 21, 2011, is not the first time he has made false predictions based not on sound exegesis of Scripture, but on his own methods of interpretation. His first prediction was that the end of the world would occur on May 21, 1988. When that failed, Camping wrote a book early in the 1990s titled 1994?. In it, Harold Camping speculated—perhaps "claimed" would be more accurate—that history would end in September of 1994. Christ would return and judge the world, according to Camping. Camping was obviously wrong, and we know from Scripture that God’s prophets are never wrong. In fact, those who claimed to speak for the Lord in the Old Testament were proven to be false prophets when their words did not come true, and they were put to death (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). Today, in the age of grace, we no longer put false prophets to death, but the test is still the same. By any standard of interpretation, Harold Camping is a false prophet.
In spite of Camping’s claim to be a biblical interpreter, his interpretations from Scripture have consistently ignored the words of the Lord Jesus regarding His return. In His most extensive revelation on end times, Matthew 24, Jesus specifically states, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). This is so clear and so obvious that it is incomprehensible that anyone could make the statements Harold Camping makes and that others can believe them. But people do believe him and, sadly, they make crucial life decisions based on his foolish and unbiblical predictions.
Camping's use of an allegorical method of interpretation for Scripture, and especially for unfulfilled prophecy, is fatally flawed. God gave us His Word to communicate very specific information. Our job when approaching Scripture is to determine what God is communicating by using rational, normal methods of communication. God does not hide truth in obscure, undecipherable terms and symbols. His Word contains truths that affect our lives and our eternal destinies, and He gave those truths to us to be read, studied and understood. We need no bizarre interpretations to determine truth. The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth (John 16:13), and His guiding influence is more than sufficient for our understanding.
Along with his false predictions, Harold Camping has stated that the witness of the church is over, that God has destroyed it, and that believers should leave the church. He has concluded that the church is dead, existing only as a shell of its former self. There should no longer be pastors, elders, or deacons. People should not be submitting to spiritual leadership. He says that the Holy Spirit is no longer present in the church and that people who are accepting Christ as Savior in the church are really not saved since the Holy Spirit is not present there.
However, it is clear that Harold Camping has overlooked the very nature of the church. The church is inseparable from the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son. It is the body of Christ, with Christ as the Head (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 1:18; 2:19). Jesus said He would build His church and the gates of hell would “not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). He has appointed elders and deacons to be undershepherds in His church, and He never identified a time when that structure would change. Right up until the rapture of the church, His plan for church government will remain.
We strongly urge people to have nothing to do with Harold Camping and Family Radio. Do not to listen to him—he has forsaken sound doctrine on many issues and has proven himself to be a false prophet. Whether it is repentance unto genuine salvation, or repentance from false teaching, Christians should be praying for Harold Camping to repent and for Family Radio to remove him from leadership.