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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. ladyjazzy

    Be nice if he offs himself!!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  2. John

    Harold Camping should shut his mouth up, he's making kids scared >:(

    May 24, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  3. JL

    Can this guy be taken off the air and media. Stop given the attention and you'll stop these false and non-biblical predictations. Enough already!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  4. cdgfla

    Lets see...the New Testament is based largely on propoganda texts written centuries after the death of Christ, then picked over and amassed in one text by the Catholic Church post Constantine, which has since been subject to revisions and many many translations from Latin, to Italian, to Middle English, to Modern English, etc. Yet the supplicants still believe that this book has any validity or truth to it, and represents the unchanged "word of Jesus". That would be the equivalent of me writing a "first hand" accounting of Napoleon's invasion of Prussia and Russia in 2011.

    I guess then if Christains are willing to assert that one book from this period (i.e. the Bible) is an historically accurate text and accounting of those times, then then they must also accept that Iliad, the Aeneid, Ovid, the Oddessey, etc are all accurate and true accountings of thier eras as well, and were subject to no changes, errors in translation, or politically motivated manipulations over the centuries? Right? So that means that the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman Pantheons would supercede Jesus right? How is it that the Bible is right and those religions are wrong? They have texts that supercede the Bible (which borrowed heavily from Egyptian and Mesopotamian Myth and lore).

    Its just an utter crock, and I cannot understand how anyone with a brain believes this garbage.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Sfalin

      You my friend speak the truth.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • morethanbikinis

      Sadly, the Venn Diagram sub-set of Christians who understand your lucid point is so small it makes me sad.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Daver

      Thought, skepticism, and research = enlightenment, empowerment, and understanding. The new "wave of reason" sweeping across the globe. Spread the word.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  5. Truth

    Spiritual rule over his wife? That poor woman, unable to think for herself. Pathedic.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  6. jokey

    How does this get on to the front page of CNN?

    May 24, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  7. Terry Brookman

    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha HA

    May 24, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  8. C

    Geez, don't ya hate it when you forget to carry the 2??

    May 24, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  9. Barry

    The end of time, the Judgment Day, and the return of Christ has always an important matter for believers (Jews and Christians). And concerns about these matters go back to the time of Jesus and before (among the Jewish community), according to biblical and extra-biblical texts.

    The early Christians seemed to believe that the return of Christ was imminent (that it was about to occur at any moment) and that it was going to happen soon and in their lifetimes.

    (See: Acts of the Apostles 1:9-11; “After Jesus said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”)

    When Christ did not return as and when they thought he would return, the church began to understand two things:
    1.) that Christ’s return was immanent (that it was already present and already at work in their lives), and
    2.) the ultimate consummation of this reality may not occur in their lifetimes, so they must continue to work and persevere, until the end comes.

    (Consider the following verse of Scripture, as a counter example of having Christ be at work in their lives in an immanent fashion; in Ephesians 2:2; Paul writes: in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.)

    See: the following Scriptures.

    II Thessalonians 3:10; Paul writes: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

    Colossians 3:23 Paul writes: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…”

    Acts 20:30; Paul says: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

    I Corinthians 4:12; Paul writes: “We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it…”

    Second Corinthians 6:5 Paul writes: “…in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger…”

    Ephesians 4:28 Paul writes:”Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.”

    The early Christians were learning what Christians today believe, that God was in the process of revealing his message to them; and, the message is: the end will come soon enough; we will be judged for everything we have done while in the body; that only God through Christ’s death on the cross can atone for our sins; and, we should remain vigilant and be prepared for the end—whether that comes in the form of natural death, through cancer, car accidents, coronary heart disease or some other form–or through the end of time.

    The end (death and the grave) is coming.

    Be ready!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • John

      Seriously? Get a life and stop wasting other people's time and resources.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • Sfalin

      Barry I am so sorry you cannot accept your feelings for other men.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  10. gus

    Religion kills.
    Plant a tree
    Read a book
    Save a child

    May 24, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • O

      what about saving animals. People do many harm to animals. They keep most of the world alive.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  11. MikeinATL

    If he's so concerned with the end of the world why doesn't he just kill himself and do the rest of us a favor

    May 24, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  12. Daver

    I have to laugh inside when so many christians denounce this guy for believing the rapture will occur this year when believing a "rapture" will even happen at all is just as ludicrous. Seriously, enough with pulling rabbits out of hats.

    Religion served its purpose back when we weren't educated enough to know any better. Today, science is showing us the reality of the universe, and it's more beautiful and more mysterious than any story created by humans. Live in reality. Look up at the stars at night... think about what it means to be an animal species on the planet Earth, in our solar system, in the Milky Way galaxy, and in the universe (at the least the one universe that we know of). There is much to be learned.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • Craig

      A-men, ummm....I mean, right on.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • TimN

      @Daver

      You make it sound like all Christians believe in the rapture. While a high percentage of TV preachers believe in the rapture, a much lower percentage of Christains, over all, believe in the rapture. I'm a follower of Christ and do not believe in the rapture (and think it is a silly thing, concocted by a small fringe group, about 150 years ago).

      I'm not a follower of Christ, because science doesn't explain the universe well enough to me. I love science and how it explains the universe. I agree that we have a lot to learn. I'm into Christ and my faith because of the relationship and the hope of eternal life.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • morethanbikinis

      Yes, I too love the concept of "Your crazy-ass theory is wrong because I have a book here that says another, better, crazy-ass theory is the truth". Kind of like "your fairy sucks because my unicorn says so".

      May 24, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Daver

      Science is a way of thinking. Nothing is sacred in science.... it doesn't pretend to know all the answers. It's an ongoing exercise of humility and humbleness. That's why we have theories... the theory of evolution, the theory of the big bang, the theory of gravity, and so on. With new evidence, science reforms, and those who are scientifically literate adapt to new knowledge and understandings.

      Maybe there is a supreme being... let's talk about the "theory of god".

      "Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?"
      — Carl Sagan

      May 24, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  13. Anthony I.

    If he is going to quote the Bible, then he should know that it states that "He will come like a thief in the night" and that no one will suspect when it is to happen. People like this nut job turn people away from the teachings of Christianity. They make me sick.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  14. BC

    Also, Matthew 25:13, same point but with a different tone: "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."

    May 24, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • JC

      Me Verse 1:1 – "stop believing everything you read" the bible was a book, written by people, well after the years it covers, during a period where these people were starving and possibly hallucinating from malnutrition. not to mention all the magic mushrooms they found growing at the base of mt. sinai. does it make more sense to believe that things we know the effects of are untrue, or to just say it was written before i was born so it must be true?

      May 24, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  15. Madtown

    "...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."
    -------

    Ah yes, he knows exactly what God is thinking, and deciding.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  16. Andy

    I predicted that exactly.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  17. ratmommie

    Why in the world is the press even acknowledging this man? Why give him credence in the first place. I just don't understand the waste of time on covering this when there are so many other important issues at hand.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • BC

      Don't forget the waste of money

      May 24, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Bruce

      Why are there almost 1,500 comments to this article, including your own? Answer that question and you'll answer the question as to why CNN is covering this Camping guy.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  18. Steve

    Jesus must be returning on a commercial flight…never on time

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

    cal is right if people would only study the bible themselves then they would know the truth and the truth shall set thee free.....
    only GOD the father knows when the end shall be maybe he should be saving souls not predicting the future!!!!!!!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Bruce

      @i will: Studying the bible for yourself did not prevent Camping or any of his followers from what happened to their silly opinions.

      No, heterodoxy is not the answer. Theology is not a democratic process. Camping shows how it can be done improperly–and key to Camping's errors was the idea that any single person, armed only with a bible and their opinions, will "discover the truth" as he discovered it.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  20. sudhir_rao_Bangalore

    Does this help human to take any precautions? or preventions? Expose Best things are anticipated.

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

      This guy is a nut case, no doubt...but it is prophesized in the Bible that the day will come. People just need to read it themselves in Revelations (it's very short) to find out that this guy doesn't know what he's talking about. How do you prepare for such a thing? Repent and ask for His guidance and saving grace.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:46 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.