In a previous post (link) we discussed how Mr. Harold Camping errs on the simple question of who Moses’ father is, according to the Scriptures, and how this has a chain reaction effect on his chronology. There are other clear errors in Mr. Camping’s theology that relate less directly to his date-setting error.
Scripture Says Christ Died Once
Scripture is perfectly clear that Christ died only once:
For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
And again, we see the same clear teaching in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans:
Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
Mr. Camping Says Christ Died Twice
Mr. Camping claims:
Later in this study, we will learn that the Lord Jesus Christ died twice in connection with the atonement. He died before the foundation of the world as the Lamb that was slain (Revelation 13:8). He also died when He was on the cross, demonstrating to us and the world how He paid for our sins. The doubling of His punishment agrees with the principle set forth in Genesis 41:32, that is, that which is doubled is established by God.
(To God be the Glory, p. 25)
Mr. Camping also claims:
Now we understand that Christ suffered once to pay for our sins, and He suffered a second time to demonstrate how He paid for our sins. Now we can understand why Pilate, the Roman governor, repeated again and again, “I find no fault in him” (Luke 23:4, 22; John 19:4, 6; also see Matthew 27:19, 24). Christ stood before him absolutely sinless. Yet He had to be punished as if He were still laden with all of the sins of those who were elected to become saved in order to demonstrate how He suffered for those sins.
(To God be the Glory, p. 34)
Exploring Camping’s View of Revelation 13:8
As to Mr. Camping’s view of Revelation 13:8, the verse states:
Revelation 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
I can understand how that verse might sound at first (and in English) as though it were saying that the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world. It is, however, also legitimate to understand “slain” as modifying “Lamb” and “from the foundation of the world” as modifying “written.” We find confirmation of this from another discussion of this book:
Revelation 17:8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
Notice how here, again, “from the foundation of the world” is not right next to “written” but nevertheless the reader can figure out that it does not modify “life” but “written.”
There’s another aspect that we must consider as well. The expression “the Lamb slain” is a picture that John used previously in Revelation 5:
Revelation 5:6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
Revelation 5:12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
Finally, we see a parallel expression to that in Revelation 13:8 without the reference to slaying:
Revelation 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Mr. Camping, however, prefers to quote Revelation 13:8 selectively. For example:
- “The first surprising information that we learn as we carefully study all that God teaches us in the Bible about the atonement is that it was completely finished before God created mankind. In Revelation 13:8, we read of “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”” (To God be the Glory, p. 32)
- “Now, Jesus is the great “I AM,” God Himself, who has no beginning, and the Bible tells us in Revelation 13:8, that He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”” (I Hope God Will Save Me, p. 8)
- “But nobody except God Himself knows who they are. Only after they receive their new resurrected soul, that is, after they have become saved, will they begin to understand that God had saved them. But the fact is that they were justified from the beginning of time because Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).”(I Hope God Will Save Me, p. 9)
- “Since Christ was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (rev. 13:8), this again shows that it has always been God’s intention to save people out of the Gentile nations as well as out of the nation of Israel.”(An Exposition of Galatians, at Galations 3:14, p. 15)
Mr. Camping doesn’t always quote the verse without context, but the many times he does tend to reinforce the reading he is insisting on, even when he occasionally provides the more complete context.
Incidentally, this ambiguity regarding the reference of “from the foundation of the world” is removed in many more recent translations:
- (ASV) And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, every one whose name hath not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain.
- (BBE) And all who are on the earth will give him worship, everyone whose name has not been from the first in the book of life of the Lamb who was put to death.
- (CEV) The beast was worshiped by everyone whose name wasn’t written before the time of creation in the book of the Lamb who was killed.
- (Darby) and all that dwell on the earth shall do it homage, every one whose name had not been written from the founding of the world in the book of life of the slain Lamb.
- (ESV) and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.
- (GNB) All people living on earth will worship it, except those whose names were written before the creation of the world in the book of the living which belongs to the Lamb that was killed.
- (Holman NT) All those who live on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered.
- (NASB) All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.
- (MKJV) And all dwelling on the earth will worship it, those whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain, from the foundation of the world.
- (MSG) Everyone on earth whose name was not written from the world’s foundation in the slaughtered Lamb’s Book of Life will worship the Beast.
- (RSV) and all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.
- (TEV) All people living on earth will worship it, except those whose names were written before the creation of the world in the book of the living which belongs to the Lamb that was killed.
- (WE) Everyone on earth will worship the beast, if they do not have their names in the book of life. The book of life belongs to the Lamb who was killed. That was God’s plan since the world was made.
Additionally, the NIV provides as its main reading a form similar to the KJV, but provides as a footnote: (a) Revelation 13:8 Or written from the creation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain
Same for the TNIV, and the Amplified Bible provides a similar footnote (a): ‘Revelation 13:8 Alternate translation: “recorded from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb that was slain [in sacrifice].'”
My reason for pointing this out is not to try to win the battle by pointing out that more translators translate the text one way than anther way. Nor am I trying to cast negative light on the most popular edition of the KJV, a version that preserves the ambiguity in a way that I think is admirable. Instead, I’m simply pointing out that a significant number of committees and translators of the Greek have viewed the phrase “from the foundation of the world” as modifying the writing, rather than as modifying the slaying.
What if “from the foundation of the world” Modifies “slain”?
I should point out that the first edition of the KJV (like the prior printed English versions, such as the Bishops’ Bible and the Geneva Bible) punctuated the verse in a way that is different from the most popular edition of the KJV. Specifically, the KJV1611 places a comma between “Lambe” and “slaine,” which tends to force the “from the foundation of the world” to modify “slain.”
So, what about my dear friends who only use KJV1611 or who strongly prefer it. Does that version support Mr. Camping’s view? Is the KJV1611 endorsing a “two deaths of Christ” view? Of course not.
Even if we are to read “from the foundation of the world” as modifying “slain,” the bigger question is why on earth anyone would interpret that literally? No one in their right mind interprets “Lamb” literally, and most people would have the sense to realize that there could be no literal book before the foundation of the world.
No, even if “from the foundation of the world” as modifying “slain,” we would still view the imagery as symbolic and not literal. We would view him as “slain from the foundation of the earth” in the sense of that being his eternal purpose, not as him actually having been slain before the world was founded. There’s no particular reason to take that kind of plainly symbolic comment literally: we don’t view Jesus as a literal lamb, we don’t view the book of Life as a literal book, and we don’t view the writing in the book as literal writing. Jesus is a lamb in that he is the sacrifice for sin. The writing in a book symbolizes the fixity of God’s decrees.
This is confirmed by, for example, the marginal note in the Geneva Bible (1599) on the word slain: “As God ordained from before all beginning, and all the sacrifices were as signs and sacraments of Christ’s death.”
In short, there is no reason to think that there was a literal slaying before the foundation of the world, even if the phrase “from the foundation of the world” as modifying “slain,” which does not appear to be the best understanding of the text.
How does this error on Mr. Camping’s part influence his end times prediction? It does not have a very direct and immediate impact. It’s significance is that it is one of several ways that Mr. Camping tries to treat the entire life of Jesus as simply being a spiritual picture, thereby reinforcing Mr. Camping’s attempt to avoid the literal sense of Scripture in favor of specific, selective spiritualizing interpretations. This particular error does not have such a direct, chain reaction effect as Mr. Camping’s error regarding Moses’ father, but it does help to serve to show a second instance in which Mr. Camping’s spiritualizing agenda places him in direct contradiction with the plain teachings of Scripture.