Strike Three and You’re Out
You may have heard that last week Harold Camping apologized for setting dates for the rapture. His bizarre application of civil engineer math geekiness to biblical hermeneutics misleads him to believe he could calculate the date of the rapture and the final judgment (See Robert Godfrey’s posts on Camping parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5). Strike one was back in 1994—No rapture. Camping discovers his miscalculation, and revises his date to May 21, 2011, which is also to kick off five months of judgment apparently in the form of rolling earthquakes that were to begin at a certain time of day all around the globe. Perhaps you noticed the billboards in some parts of the country, but most of you will recall the media attention given to it in the weeks leading up to Camping’s second date. May 21, 2011 comes and goes: strike two! Upon this failure, he claims that the rapture really did happen, but it was a spiritual rapture, and that a spiritual judgment has begun which will culminate in the complete end of the world all at once on October 21, 2011. Nothing. Strike three and you’re out, Harold Camping! In the stressful aftermath of this publicly humiliating fiasco, which brought much grief, consternation, and in some parts of the world, persecution, Camping suffers a stroke, and he is removed from regular broadcasting on Family Radio. I don’t know if the strike was brought on by the stress of the events, but a stroke he suffered, nonetheless.
Now that he’s had time to recover, this past week, Camping posts a letter on the Family Radio website apologizing for his “sin” of setting dates (read the letter here). In some ways it is an impressive statement. I was particularly moved to see his state in no uncertain terms that those of us who harped on Jesus’ words that “no man will know the day or hour” were right, and that he was wrong:
…we now realize that those people who were calling our attention to the Bible’s statement that “of that day and hour knoweth no man” (Matthew 24:36 & Mark 13:32), were right in their understanding of those verses and Family Radio was wrong. Whether God will ever give us any indication of the date of His return is hidden in God’s divine plan.
But this candid concession and apology was not good enough for Dan Elmendorf, former Family Radio broadcaster and now founder of Redeemer Broadcasting. In his weekly program, “A Plain Answer,” Elmendorf reminds us that the sin of date-setting was the least of Camping’s doctrinal problems. Absent from Camping’s open letter is any expression of repentance for having called on Christians to leave organized churches in which the gospel is preached and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are administered under the oversight by elders with the authority of exercising church discipline on members whose lives are persistently refusing to conform to a biblical standard of holiness and obedience to Scripture. Apparently, Camping still believes, and would have his listeners believe, that “the church age has ended.” So, it’s not that Camping has repented of the more heretical nature of his controversial “ministry.” I recommend that you listen to Elmendorf’s program, the first segment of which addresses Camping’s “weak apology.” The host shares some insight and experience which you can’t get from the Associated Press stories.
The Schuller’s Take Their Ball and Leave
In another recent instance of heresy in the headlines, it is reported that the entire family of positive-thinking televangelist, Robert Schuller, are leaving Crystal Cathedral Ministries. The 85 year-old Schuller, having retired from weekly “ministry” in 2009, was succeeded by his daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman. According to the LA Times, Coleman announced this past Sunday that she will leave the Crystal Cathedral to start a new church citing a “hostile working environment” stemming from a growing divide between the Schuller family and the Crystal Cathedral’s board of directors. Robert Schuller and his wife applaud Coleman’s decision, but announce they will not be joining her at her new church, and that their plans for weekly worship are not yet finally decided. They will not, however, have any further public association with the work of the Crystal Cathedral and it’s broadcast The Hour of Power, started by Robert Schuller back in 1970. It seems that all positive (as opposed to “good”) things must come to an end. In my humble opinion, this end has been long overdue.
So it has been ten days since Harold Camping’s prediction failed to come to pass as “guaranteed” by himself, rather than the Bible (as he falsely claimed). In the wake of this failure, many people around the world are left in various states of loss. For some, it is a loss of pets who were euthanized in preparation of last Saturday; for others, the loss of money; and for many more, the loss of pride in their teacher’s genius and their own “inside scoop” about the end of the world.
There are various ways people respond to anti-climactic events such as this one: some may (please grant it, Lord!) repent of their blasphemous repudiation that the institutional church is under Satan’s control (Matthew 12:31) and resubmit themselves to the ministry of the Word of the gospel preached and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper along with the oversight of biblically faithful elders who are watching out for the souls of those entrusted to their care (Hebrews 13:17). This is the ideal result, but may sadly be the minority report barring the grace and mercy of God, and the loving care of the Christians around them who come along side them to help in this matter. If you are a believer who reads Scripture and confesses the essential truths of the faith along with the rest of the universal church as expressed in the ancient catholic creeds and the historic Protestant confessions, please stand by ready to pray for and with these imperiled souls, graciously ready to assist those around you who were victimized by Camping’s false teachings.
It has been reported, regrettably, that for others, deliverance didn’t come, but their own deaths, whether at their own hands, or the hands of others (don’t neglect to read these two previous links!). Responsibility for tragic unintended consequences such as these have been denied by Harold Camping, who minimizes his role (listen to his callous responses from last week’s press conference).
Whatever the circumstances in the lives of Camping’s followers, it would behoove all of the surviving ones to take a half an hour and give a thoughtful listen to Redeemer Broadcasting’s recent episode of A Plain Answer, entitled, “One Week After Harold Camping’s May 21 Date.” Those of you who ought to be watching for opportunities to minister to Camping’s bewildered followers will also be equipped by it. If nothing else, encourage them to stop listening to Family Radio altogether and seek the greener pastures of Redeemer Broadcasting. This page will explain why.
“The online apologetics and discernment work Apprising Ministries” has posted a good survey of Monday’s press conference on Harold Camping’s hopefully final episode of Open Forum. Short of apologizing and repenting of his errors, it seems Camping may at least spare us of five more months of hand wringing about the supposed judgment to come on October 21, 2011.
I haven’t listened to the entire program personally, but what little I have heard leads me to conclude that Camping’s bottom line is that he wasn’t wrong about something happening on May 21, 2011, but that he forgot to interpret it spiritually. You can download the Open Forum press conference here, however, and listen for yourself.
A “spiritual” rapture and five “spiritual” months of “spiritual” rolling earthquakes?
Camping also continues to insist that God is still to destroy the world by fire in five months. So, perhaps he’s made a note to himself to more quickly announce that if the world isn’t destroyed by fire in October, then he has a handy out that God…”spiritually” destroyed the earth by fire? Uh huh.
Apprising Ministries’ Ken Silva fills in a few more blanks:
It seems, rather than humbly admitting his error, Camping now speculates he “misinterpreted the Bible” and rather than May 21st beginning “the end of the world” supposedly we’re to believe that it was actually “the spiritual beginning of the physical end” not too unlike the eschatology of the non-Christian cult of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Camping is quoted as dreaming:
“Were not changing a date at all; we’re just learning that we have to be a little more spiritual about this,” he said in a rambling 90-minute radio broadcast that was part sermon, part press conference. “But on Oct. 21, the world will be destroyed. It won’t be five months of destruction. It will come at once.” (Online source)
Sort of reminds one of the Pathological Liar, an old SNL character of Jon Lovitz, “this isn’t changing a date…um, I’ve had a new revelation from God—yeah, that’s the ticket—er, an invisible thing happened, see. So, you can’t say I’m wrong; trust me, yeah, it happened. Really, it did.” Cabanatuan continues:
The good news, for those dreading five more months of talk about the rapture, is that Family Radio will be taking down its billboards, ceasing distribution of Bible tracts and literature about Judgment Day and focusing its programming on religious music and God’s word, not on a countdown to the end.
“We don’t need to talk about it anymore,” Camping said. “The world has been warned – my it has been warned. We have done our share and the media picked it up. The world has been warned that it is under judgment.” (Online source)
Yes, it has; in Scripture, and now we’re in the position of having to warn the world about false prophets like Harold Camping, whom the Lord did not send, that are in reality prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds (Jeremiah 14:14) and are not repentant for the damage they cause . . . . (read more)
(05-22) 19:18 PDT ALAMEDA — The man who said the world was going to end appeared at his front door in Alameda a day later, very much alive but not so well.”It has been a really tough weekend,” said Harold Camping, the 89-year-old fundamentalist radio preacher who convinced hundreds of his followers that the rapture would occur on Saturday at6 p.m.
Massive earthquakes would strike, he said. Believers would ascend to heaven and the rest would be left to wander a godforsaken planet until Oct. 21, when Camping promised a fiery end to the world.But today, almost 18 hours after he thought he’d be in Heaven, there was Camping, “flabbergasted” inAlameda, wearing tan slacks, a tucked-in polo shirt and a light jacket.
Birds chirped. A gentle breeze blew. Across the street, neighbors focused on their yard work and the latest neighborhood gossip.
“I’m looking for answers,” Camping said, adding that meant frequent prayer and consultations with friends. “But now I have nothing else to say,” he said, closing the door to his home. “I’ll be back to work Monday and will say more then.”
Camping’s followers will surely be listening. Read more
This is the day proclaimed by false teacher Harold Camping as the beginning of Judgment Day. According to him, May 21, 2011 begins a five month period in which earthquakes will destroy those of us who do not believe his false gospel of God’s wrath. But God will rapture those, and only those, believers in him who have believe that Satan is in control of all the churches (and has been since 1988), have left them and have embraced the message, not of Christ’s sinless life, propitiatory death and glorious resurrection for sinners, but of the coming of Judgment Day on this day, May 21, 2011. Camping and his followers see themselves, not as the apostles bearing witness to the death and resurrection of Christ and proclaiming the forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith in his name, but as the Old Testament prophets, principally like Jonah, who are sent with a message of impending judgment, calling on all to “cry mightily unto God for mercy.”
This is nothing but a simple case of losing focus on the centrality of the cross of Christ in Christian proclamation. The apostle Paul writes that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Elsewhere, he writes, “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:8-11). What is the principal work of Christ in focus in this call to faith? His resurrection on the third day after his death for sinners. Verse seventeen of this very passage points out that it this word of Christ, his death and resurrection for sinners, through which faith comes, and no other. If we lose focus on the cross of Christ, even in favor of his other works, like his promised return in glory, we will not be preaching the message through which the Holy Spirit will impart faith, and those to whom we preach will not be saved. This is just one of Harold Camping’s numerous errors, not to mention heresies, in his so-called “radio ministry.”
For this reason, I want to survey the Acts of the Apostles and see how that they who were called to lay the foundation of the church (see Eph. 2:20) bore witness to Christ throughout the world in order to be reminded of the centrality of the cross in our testimony before the lost world.
In the first book [The Gospel According to Luke], O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart fromJerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:1-11; emphasis mine)
With this introduction of Christ’s call to bear witness to him throughout the world to an ever-widening extent, our focus in this survey will be upon a selected few of the ten major speeches recorded in the Acts. Three are preached by Peter, one by Stephen, and six by Paul, of whose consist of one from each of his missionary journeys (the first addressing Jews, the second Gentiles, the third Christians, followed by three defense speeches before authorities).
Peter’s Witness (Acts 2:14-36)
In Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost after Christ’s Ascension, he first explains how that the disciples’ speaking in tongues is a fulfillment of Joel’s apocalyptic prophecy (Joel 2:28-32) emphasizing not the coming of Judgment Day, but salvation through faith (Acts 2:14-21). In verse 22, he transitions from the miraculous to the subject of his sermon by the fact that Jesus’ miracles attested to his divine sanction, and immediately proclaims the death of Christ as being the predetermined plan of God (v. 23), and proclaims his resurrection, explicitly stating that it is this to which they bear witness: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32).
Stephen’s Witness (Acts 7:1-53)
After preaching Christ as the promised prophet who is like Moses in that he would mediate a better covenant than that which Moses mediated (Acts 7:37; cf. 2 Cor. 3), although explicit reference is not made to Christ’s death and resurrection, it is at least assumed (his audience were Jews who were well aware of the death of Jesus), and his resurrection and ascension are implied by his declaring his vision of the exalted Christ, sitting on the right hand of God the Father (Acts 7:56). Then Luke, the human author of Acts, portrays Stephen’s death as an allusion to the propitiatory nature of Christ’s crucifixion (that it renders God favorable toward sinners) as the martyr prays that his executioners’ sins would be forgiven, just as Christ also prayed (see Luke 23:34), and his very death is thus a testimony to the cross of Christ itself (cf. Col. 1:24). The word “martyr” in fact means “witness,” and such witness Stephen indeed bears to his death. Saul of Tarsus held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, but he would not come to faith until he himself would come face to face with the risen Christ.
Paul’s Witness (Acts 17:22-31)
Contrary to Harold Camping’s emphasis that the cross and resurrection need not be preached, but exclusively the coming judgment, Paul preaches God’s judgment as signified and assured to come due to Christ’s resurrection from death (v. 31). The response of the Athenians to Paul’s preaching of the resurrection shows its central character in his sermon (v.32) and we see that as a result of such preaching, faith was granted to Dionysius the Areopagite and Damaris (v.34).
If I’ve learned one thing in my past teaching ministry, it is that the easiest thing in the world to do is to forget to tie that which you teach or apply to the cross and resurrection of Christ. We must redouble our efforts to make sure the gospel is kept central in all of our preaching and teaching because it, and only it is the message by which God promises to save those who believe (1 Peter 1:25; James 1:21). If we learn anything from the tragedy playing out before our eyes this weekend, let it be the importance of the cross of Christ. Pray for your friends and loved ones who may have been deceived by Camping’s false gospel of Judgment Day that they might lose faith in Camping, but that their faith in Christ crucified and risen for them may not fail.
From the Rapture Fail website:
RaptureFail has been set up to allow people around the world to catalogue the failure of Harold Camping’s Rapture prophecy for the 21st of May 2011.
As Christians who take the Bible seriously we believe that “prophecies” like these demean the church’s witness in the world. The purpose of this site is to demonstrate very clearly (and to mock gently) that this is a false prophecy and that Harold Camping is a false prophet.
As 6pm on the 21st of May passes around the world, RaptureFail will show that the Rapture is not occurring by utilising the power of the internet and global user input. Everybody who participates in this project will be part of the undermining of this embarrassment to the Body of Christ.
Several weeks ago, Dr. W. Robert Godfrey posted a 5-part series of blogs on Harold Camping from the perspective of one who knew this apocalyptic radio personality. When Godfrey was a child, he was a member of the same Christian Reformed congregation as Harold Camping—we’re talking, back in the ‘50’s! With this personal connection, Dr. Godfrey was able to introduce us to Camping and his teachings, not from a malicious and mocking point of view, but as one who grieves and prays for Harold Camping and his followers. I highly recommend his series, the links to which are given at the end of this post.
In part one, we learn how Camping reads the Bible.
Camping was a bright and studious man who had been educated as an engineer. In the 1950s he owned a very successful construction company which built churches as well as other significant buildings. This educational background is critical to understanding Camping. His education was not in the liberal arts or theology. He had not been prepared to read literature or ancient texts. He knew no Greek or Hebrew. He was not formally introduced to the study of theology. His reading of the Bible, as it evolved over the decades, reflected his training in engineering. He reads the Bible like a mathematical or scientific textbook.
Yesterday, I downloaded the archived episodes of Harold Camping’s radio show “Open Forum” beginning with last Saturday’s episode, and I’ll continue downloading and listening through the time after his predicted date of the beginning of Judgment Day.On the May 15 episode of Open Forum, one caller points to Camping’s mathematical calculations as evidence that he’s not basing his prediction on what the Bible says but that he is instead “leaning on his own understanding.” The caller is correct, in that, just as Dr. Godfrey informs us, Camping’s presupposition about the Bible is that it is a precise mathematical text (Camping’s “own understanding”), when in fact, it is not. Sound interpretation of the literary genres of Scripture often involves the use of round numbers. But this is a fact which Camping denies. At minute 14:38 in the May 15 episode, we hear the following:
Caller: But you’ve had to apply these calculations…and-and-and with the calendars and adding. Nowhere does it say to do that, and that’s leaning to your own understanding. You would have to be perfect in your interpretation and unfallible (sic).
Camping: Well, first of all-first of all, when we developed the time in the Bible, we’re not looking at the calendars that have been developed by the various nations because sometimes they have dropped out some days or whatever. We work through the information that is all from God, namely, going from one year to the next, we go from 365.2422 days. We’re not looking at calendars, but when we come to talking about when in the Old Testament or whatever, we have to relate it to some kind of calendar, and so always—and archaeologists do the same thing—they coordinate it with our modern calendar, otherwise you’re neither coming or going, you don’t know where you are. You don’t pay any attention to all the different calendars that have been developed throughout time, only pay attention to the actuality. The astronomers have measured this again and again. It’s the way God has created the world, that there are 365.2422 days in a year. So if we multiply the number of years from one point to another, times that number, we can know exactly the number of days, and so on. So it’s all done with exquisite accuracy. And the Bible is a very, very analytical book. It is not—and when you’re working with the timeline in the bible and any evidence in the Bible, it has to be looked at very analytically, just like an engineering book, and that’s why we can come to such solid truths as what we’re talking about. But if we look at the Bible like the philosophers do [certainly by this he means seminary trained Bible scholars], they are not very careful in what they are using for their measurements. They can give an idea based on, “It could well be this…” and then they go ahead and they introduce some other information on that kind of a statement. “It could well be this.” No way! You can’t do that. It has to be, “It will be this because of what we read in the Bible,” and we go to our facts all the time. The Bible is dripping with facts, not with guesses. But thank you for calling and sharing and shall we take our next call, please? Welcome to Open Forum . . . (emphasis mine)
So, we see that according to Harold Camping, theological and hermeneutical expertise is “leaning on one’s own understanding,” but appealing to the laws of mathematics, astronomy and the practice of archaeologists, or looking at the Bible like an engineering book, will not make you misinterpret the Bible. This is the typical attitude of the rationalistic Biblicist.
Those who’d like to read an introduction to the proper approach to Scripture can learn a lot by reading The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy which may be accessed from my “Creeds, Etc.” page.
…in writing hokey, mediocre music as an amateur, presuming it’ll edify others as much as it does me (see here for an example). Why am I not alone? Someone has done so by rewriting O Come, O Come Emmanuel in the light of Harold Camping’s soon-to-be-proven miscalculation of Judgment Day. You can listen to it here. (HT: James Swan)
I just finished reading “Encouragement for New Converts,” chapter 17 of The New Testament: An Introduction to its Literature and History (1976, 2009 Banner of Truth Trust) by J. Gresham Machen. This book makes a concise introduction to the major themes in the New Testament and clearly and effectively makes a positive presentation of orthodox New Testament scholarship, while at the same time providing textually based correctives to the academically popular theories of modernist liberal scholarship. Dr. Machen was, above all else, a New Testament scholar. While most known for both his New Testament Greek for Beginners, which is still used in many seminaries, and his popularly written Christianity and Liberalism, New Testament scholarship is his specialty.
Each chapter in Machen’s New Testament Introduction first assigns a selection of New Testament readings on which the following chapter is based. In this case, I read both 1 and 2 Thessalonians out of my ESV Study Bible before taking in Machen’s seven-page chapter on both books. While reading this chapter, which summarized the occasion, contents and issues related to the these earliest of Paul’s epistles, I was struck while reading the section on “The Second Coming of Christ,” in which he expounds “the second advent, with the events which are immediately to precede it” (p. 119). Machen interacts with the dominant modernist theory that Paul actually expected Christ to return during his lifetime.
But there is also a bit of timeliness to Machen’s exposition of 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, specifically in the light of the current prediction by Harold Camping that Judgment Day has been calculated by him to be soon to occur on May 21, 2011. That’s 51 days and counting! Despite the fact that Jesus himself said, “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 ESV), Camping, not to mention all other date-setters, appeal to verses such as 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6, which read, “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” Machen’s introductory commentary also puts these words in perspective for us in the light of Camping’s millennial madness. Following is Machen’s section on “The Second Coming of Christ,” from pages 119-121 in The New Testament: An Introdcution to its Literature and History. Enjoy!
The Second Coming of Christ
Undoubtedly the second advent, with the events which are immediately to precede it, occupies a central position in the Thessalonian Epistles. Evidently the expectation of Christ’s coming was a fundamental part of Paul’s belief, and had a fundamental place in his preaching. ‘Ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven’–these words show clearly how the hope of Christ’s appearing was instilled in the converts from the very beginning, I Thess. 1.9, 10. To serve the living God and to wait for his Son–that is the sum and substance of the Christian life. All through the Epistles the thought of the Parousia–the ‘presence’ or ‘coming’–of Christ appears as a master motive. I Thess. 2.19; 3.13; 4.13 to 5.11, 23, 24; II Thess. 1.5 to 2.12.
This emphasis upon the second coming of Christ is explained if Paul expected Christ to come in the near future. The imminence of the Parousia for Paul appears to be indicated by I Thess. 4.15: ‘For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep.’ This verse is often thought to indicate that Paul confidently expected before his death to witness the coming of the Lord. Apparently he classes himself with those who ‘are left unto the coming of the Lor’ as over against those who will suffer death. In the later epistles, it is further said, Paul held a very different view. From Second Corinthians on, he faced ever more definitely the thought of death, II Cor. 5.1, 8; Phil. 1.20-26. A comparison of I Cor. 15.51 with II Cor 5.1, 8 is thought to indicate that the deadly peril which Paul incurred between the writing of the two Corinthian Epistles, II Cor. 1.8, 9, had weakened his expectation of living until Christ should come. After he had once despaired of life, he could hardly expect with such perfect confidence to escape the experience of death. The possibility of death was too strong to be left completely out of sight.
Plausible as such a view is, it can be held only with certain reservations.
In the first place, we must not exaggerate the nearness of the Parousia according to Paul, even in the earliest period; for in II Thess. 2.1-12 the Thessalonians are reminded of certain events that must occur before Christ would come. The expression of the former Epistle, I Thess. 5.2, that the day of the Lord would come as a thief in the night, was to be taken as a warning to unbelievers to repent while there was yet time, not as a ground for neglecting ordinary provision for the future. In Second Thessalonians Paul finds it necessary to calm the overstrained expectations of the Thessalonian Christians.
Furthermore, it is not only in the earlier epistles that expressions occur which seem to suggest that the Parousia is near: Rom. 13.11; Phil. 4.5. And then it is evident from II Cor. 11.23-29 and from I Cor. 15.30-32 that Paul had undergone dangers before the one mentioned in II Cor. 1.8,9, so that there is no reason to suppose that that one event caused any sudden change in his expectations.
Lastly, in I Cor. 6.14 Paul says that ‘God both raised the Lord, and will raise up us throught his power.’ If that refers to the literal resurrection, then here Paul classes himself among those who are to die; for if he lived to the Parousia, then there would be no need for him to be raised up.
It is therefore very doubtful whether we can put any very definite change in the apostle’s expectations as to his living or dying between First Corinthians and Second Corinthians. A gradual development in his feeling about the matter there no doubt was. During the early part of his life his mind dwelt less upoon the prospect of death than it did after perils of all kinds had made that prospect more and more imminent. But at no time did the apostle regard the privilege of living until the Parousia as a certainty to be put at all in the same category with the Christian hope itself. Especially the passage in First Thessalonians can be rightly interpreted only in the light of the historical occasion for it. Until certain members of the church had died, the Thessalonian Christians had never faced the possibility of dying before the second coming of Christ. Hence they were troubled. Would the brethren who had fallen asleep miss the benefits of Christ’s kingdom? Paul writes to reassure them. He does not contradict their hope of living till the coming of Christ, for God had not revealed to him that that hope would not be realized. But he tells them that, supposing that hope to be justified, even then they will have no advantage over their dead brethren. He classes himself with those who were still alive and might therefore live till Christ should come, as over against those who were already dead and could not therefore live till Christ should come.
Certain passages in the epistles of Paul, which are not confined to any one period of his life, seem to show that at any rate he did not exclude the very real possibility that Christ might come in the near future. But such an expectation of the early coming of Christ was just as far removed as possible from the expectations of fanatical chiliasts. It did not lead Paul to forget that the times and the seasons are entirely in the hand of God. It had no appreciable effect upon his ethics, except to make it more intense, more fully governed by the thought of the judgment seat of Christ. It did not prevent him from laying far-reaching plans, it did not prevent his developing a great philosophy of future history in Romans, chapters 9 to 11. How far he was from falling into the error he combated in Second Thessalonians! Despite his view of the temporary character of the things that are seen, how sane and healthy was his way of dealing with practical problems! He did his duty, and left the details of the future to God. Hence it is hard to discover what Paul thought as to how soon Christ would come–naturally so, for Paul did not try to discover it himself. [emphasis mine, highlighting Machen’s correction of Camping-like date-setting].