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May 23rd, 2011
05:04 PM ET

Preacher now says end of the world will happen in 5 months

By Kim Hutcherson and Dan Gilgoff, CNN

(CNN) – Harold Camping is sticking to his apocalyptic guns.

In his first radio broadcast since his doomsday prediction failed to pan out in a spectacularly public fashion, the California preacher insisted his was an error of interpretation, not fact.

What's more, he has another calculation for the day the world will end - October 21, 2011.

Camping had kept a low-profile since Saturday, the day he had forecast for the return of Jesus Christ to Earth. He and his devoted followers have been warning for months that on May 21, a select 2% to 3% of the world's population would be taken to heaven. Those left behind would face months of tribulation before perishing in the Earth's destruction, which Camping said would happen on October 21.

This is the basis for his new prediction, which Camping claims is not new at all. He told listeners on his Family Radio broadcast Monday that God is "loving and merciful," and had decided not to punish the humanity with five months of destruction.

But he maintains that the end of the world is still coming.

"We've always said October 21 was the day," Camping said during his show. "The only thing we didn't understand was the spirituality of May 21. We're seeing this as a spiritual thing happening rather than a physical thing happening. The timing, the structure, the proofs, none of that has changed at all."

However, Camping said his group would not be mounting another advertising push. In the months leading up to May 21, Family Radio billboards popped up across the country, warning that the end was near.

"We're not going to be passing out tracts," Camping said. "We're not going to put up any more billboards. We're not going to be advertising in any way. The world has been warned. We did our little share and the media picked it up. But now the world has been told, it's under judgment."

Fred Store, who led one of four RV caravans that toured the country in recent months to spread the word about judgment day, said he and other followers heard Camping's broadcast "and we were quite happy - it will be interesting to see what the next couple of months will bring."

"It appears as though this whole [rapture] thing happened in a spiritual, rather than a physical way," said Store, 66. The retired electrician said that he and the other nine members of his five-RV caravan were still at an RV park where they waited for the rapture to arrive on Saturday.

He said the park was within 100 miles of Boston, Massachusetts, but didn't want to disclose the specific location. He said the caravan was waiting for word from Camping's ministry, Family Radio, about arranging the return of the vehicles to the broadcaster's Oakland, California, headquarters.

Store said he and the others in his caravan were not disappointed that the dramatic events associated with the rapture had not come to pass.

"We think that judgment day did happen," he said. "It didn’t result in an earthquake, and there were a number of things that weren't exactly the way we said they would be, but we were only reading from the Bible.  We’ve been humbled by the whole experience."

Camping founded Family Radio, a nonprofit Christian radio network with about 65 stations across the country, in 1958. It received $80 million in contributions between 2005 and 2009.

He first inaccurately predicted the world would end in 1994. Despite his poor track record, he has gathered many followers. Some gave up their homes, entire life savings and jobs because they believed the world was ending.

Reporters who were allowed to ask questions during the broadcast Monday pressed Camping on this issue, but he would not admit that he bore any blame for his followers' predicaments.

"I don't have any responsibility," Camping said. "I'm only teaching the Bible. I'm telling ... this is what the Bible says. I don't have spiritual rule over anybody ... except my wife as the head of the household."

Experts in apocalyptic movements said that reinterpretations like Camping's are not uncommon in the wake of failed doomsday predictions.

“Historically, failed prophecies tend to result in disillusionment, with members deserting the group, or, more typically, a faith-saving (and face-saving) statement to the effect that while divine revelation remains infallible, human calculation is not,” said Lorenzo DiTommaso, author of the forthcoming book “The Architecture of Apocalypticism” and an associate professor of religion at Concordia University in Montréal, Canada. 

“In short: The math was off, and it’s back to the drawing board,” he said. “If the logic seems a bit self-serving, recall that in the apocalyptic mindset, faith precedes theory, and theory informs the evidence."

–CNN's Jessica Ravitz contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • End times

soundoff (4,998 Responses)
  1. Mattman

    I wonder what bible he is reading, cause it is clear that we will not know when this event is going to happen.

    Matthew 24:36
    But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

    1 Thessalonians 5:2
    For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  2. Kimberly

    Sadly this well meaning pastor subscribes to the idea that MAN can say when the end of the world will take place. I looked to see what Bible he was holding in the photo and low and behold it is the same one I read. Mine clearly states that it will happen in the twinkling of an eye. Only God knows the precise time he has chosen. Remember His time is not ours, For Him, a day could mean a year, a hundred years. He wants us to seek fellowship with Him on a "daily" basis and not worry about the end but to prepare our hearts in Him and look forward to our final journey, where there is only happiness, perfect and complete happiness with Him. Spend your time with your ABBA DADDY and get to know him. Don't waste time with misguided "non-biblical" information. I pray for this pastor that he might read the word again and see it with new eyes.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  3. shane1171

    Ah, man, can't he hold off on that date until after college football season!!!!!! I feel like my Dawgs are gonna take it this year. What you think Mr. Camping. I will send you a little twen-twen-twenty if you can forecast this for me. ;)

    May 24, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  4. chris

    Anyone notice that its always the 21st of the month? Know what else is the 21st of the month? The Mayan prophecy of Dec 21 2012. At this rate this guy will keep extending it out and out and then finally when something happens he'll claim he told everyone. Two words for you – False Prophet.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • James

      Last time he extended it 17 years. This time only 5 months. I don't think the old fart has many more extensions left in him, unless God's purposefully keeping him going because he's getting a good laugh out of it.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Ghreb

      Posted on Im glad to have located this post as its such an itntreseing one! I am always on the lookout for quality posts and posts so i suppose im lucky to have located this! I hope you will be adding more in the future

      March 4, 2012 at 12:02 am |
  5. beelzebubba

    So many Californians fall for these cults. The irony is how they claim this is how "dumb, inbred red-necks" act. California is a prime cult location because it has so many anonymous, transient, shallow, materialistic people. Living there gave me the creeps. Florida isn't much better.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  6. Ms. Cash

    If the bible says that not even the Son of God (JESUS) knows the day nor the hour....how is it that this joker thinks that God himself would entrust such information to him of all people. It's so sad to see how many people will believe anything and not fact check for themselves. We are all supposed to live EVERDAY as if Jesus is coming back – point blank period.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  7. James

    This guy, thankfully, is very close to returning to dust. He'll be of much more use to the world in that state.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  8. darte

    It is in the best interest of Christians to use faith not facts when trying to prove the Bible.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  9. Ludicrous

    The more attention you give to this moron, the more money he will make. Stop speaking about this freaking thief. Instead, write about more important things, like how this horrific weather is taking the lives of innocent people, and how the economy is forcing this country into poverty. Its insane that you keep giving this moron the attention he doesn't deserve.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  10. Selmers

    Someone smite this a$$ already!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  11. Mayan Secrets Keeper

    Here we go again!! =:O

    May 24, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  12. Sad but true

    The bizarre fact is that stupid people will continue to send him money. He's got a good thing going for him and he's not about to give it up. Maybe he could bilk Fred Phelps and his gang of loonies. That's a ray of hope...

    May 24, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • paul

      just like tammy faye baker. what a loser she was along with her worthless husband. a sucker is born every minute.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  13. Tif

    Dear Mr. Camping,

    May 21, 2011 has come and gone. At 6 p.m. on that day, you predicted Jesus Christ to come and retrieve two to three percent of his devoted followers, but unfortunately, your prediction just like the 1994 prediction was false. Jesus Christ is coming back one day, but it clearly states in the bible that no man knows the day or hour. Further reading reveals that not even the angels know, and Jesus Christ will come as a thief in the night. Jesus does not give his followers the spirit of fear, and what you are doing is mocking Jesus and scaring innocent people. Beware Mr. Camping to not test Jesus because I do not think he is too pleased with your foolishness. In fact, stop making predictions because you look silly. Assume responsibility for both of your failed predictions. It would be best if you just admit that you are a fraud, and that you are using Jesus Christ and the bible to promote your radio show. I will pray for you so that Jesus can have mercy on your soul. The bible talks about false prophets and you are certainly one of them. Mr. camping, you are nearing 90 years old may you should retire from the limelight, and just enjoy the fruits of your labor.

    Sincerely,

    "A Christian who does not put my faith and trust in man"

    May 24, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  14. Elizabeth

    Matthew 24:36

    May 24, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  15. Layla

    As long as there are some idiots out there donate thousands of dollars to this lunatic, he will continue his BS.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  16. Robert Bond

    You know, it's sad that the majority of people who are most critical of what the Bible has to say are the very people who have studied it least. It takes more than just a "passing knowledge" of scripture to make broad sweeping comments about it's authenticity and applicability to this world.
    There has been an increase in meteorlogical abnormalities along with political and social upheavals enough for anyone to plainly see that something is building up. Personally I think the wise person would start studying what God's word has to say about it just to see if there's not some truth in it.
    I believe the message to be taken from this is not "when" Jesus will return, but that He is going to. Just be as ready as you can be. It is like they say, Jesus Christ, don't leave earth without Him.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • SueRH

      There is no more upheaval than usual, if you take a good look at history. It's just that there's an unprecedented amount of media coverage which makes everything look magnified. Worry about LIVING your life.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • styles

      Amen!

      May 24, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • morethanbikinis

      I also recommend history books (although I see that you prefer fiction) so you can see that all of these things that are "building up" have been happening since time began.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • James

      Don't be silly. I can make broad, sweeping comments about stuff I know nothing about. Kind of like your statement about bible detractors having not read the bible. Read it front to back and was mostly bored to tears and annoyed by the contradictions.
      Something is building? Was something building during World War II? Seems like the world was in more of an upheaval then, more peole died, and much more of God's chosen people, the Jews, were massacred. You're just reading meaning into things the same as Mr. Camping.
      Jesus isn't coming back. The entire myth is nonsensical. "I don't really care if you're good or bad, that was so last testament. Now, in Christianity's reboot, all I care about for you to receive your eternal reward is that you believe in me and that Jesus Christ is my son." What a stupid and arbitrary rule, and certainly not the way that reward and punishment would be doled out by a good and just God. Grow up and face your mortality instead of relying on bedtime stories to calm your fears.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  17. Name*Chedar

    I can say accurately that the " nearly doomsday " will happen in the winter solstice 12/21/2012 when the axis of the earth will tilt catastrophically in a degree never happen before. The sun will not shine for 4 days and temperature will drop. But the earth will recover again. So be prepared and buy some supply.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • SueRH

      How can you accurately predict that???

      May 24, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  18. Ricote

    I am surprised so many people is bashing this guy, he is a good Christian God respectuous and educated man. Most people believes a there is God living in the sky watching us individually, and also that they will eventually living there next to him. That is way harder to swallow than Santaclaus making toys in the North Pole. So why you don't believe this guy, his point of view looks as likely as any other in the Bible, Coran, Tora, etc...

    May 24, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • paul

      well buddy if he knew his bible then he would know that the lord said only god knows the exact time and date of he world's end.thta'w why everyone thinks he is a loser and that's the bottom line. cause stone cold said so.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  19. RW

    Good Grief. If anyone believes this crap, there is absolutely no hope for them. Just look at all the crack-pots in history that predicted the end of the world, but come up with lame excuses when it doesn't happen. I'm not very religious, but even I know the Bible says only God knows when the world will end.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  20. Al

    THis guy is awesome......and honestly what we should focus onis THE MEDIA for really blowing this up and bringing to our attention.....so again, thank you for wasting my time.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:26 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.