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. Toranj

    This guy is NOT an idiot.
    THOSE who follow him are idiots.

    This poor guy is just another mental patient. Sad is the fact that our taxes are going to his medicare to cure his non-finding cure mental illness.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Poundcake -

      Yea mental patient.. whatever.. While were culling the herd, let's talk out all Cigarette smokers too.. they are just a waste of space and spread cancer and pollution!!

      May 24, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Alex Gessong

      @Poundcake: you would shoot the Marlboro Man?! 😉 Oops! Showing my age. Most people reading this probably don't know who the Marlboro Man was. But now I've given them something to Google. 😉

      May 24, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  2. RixR

    Hey, Harold, if you'd really believed that you were going to be raptured, why didn't you donate ALL the remaining money to a cause that would have done good with it, especially in the so-called "end times", for those "left behind"- instead of keeping it all squirreled away to keep funding your ridiculous "cause"? Anyone who buys into any of this foolishness needs serious help, and it ain't coming from Camping.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  3. OMG

    In the mean time, send him ALL your money, folks. Right? After all, you aren't going to need it because you are the chosen ones, right? Actually, he won't need it either, so send it all to me. Right?

    May 24, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  4. ohoh

    I think we keep this guy in the news to remind us of what sort of nut cases are waving religion flags.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Poundcake -

      What a self important a**hole. I agree! Plus all the idiots that blindly follow him and his ilk. While were culling the herd, let's talk out all Cigarette smokers too.. they are just a waste of space and spread cancer and pollution!!

      May 24, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  5. ID10T...

    PRESIDENT OBAMA-....Can you please send SEAL TEAM 6 to Harold Campings compound... put a bullet in his head and chest., and burying the idiot at sea... after all your 1-0 thanks

    May 24, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  6. Steve Cattani

    I completely agree with Willie. Commence firing...fire at WILL!

    May 24, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  7. Whitney

    @ Bruce. The bible is the answer to EVERYTHING! If you read yours more often you would know the bible did not fail Harold Camping and his follwers!!! They just apparently dont understand what they are reading and they are adding their own words to what it really says! The bible is perfectly clear on things and if they read it correctlyand understood it correctly they would know they are all in the wrong. To believe that some ordinary man has predicted the end of time is to question the word of God because he clearly says NOBODY knows when he will return but him! The Lord will never be wrong and his wor is what we all should live by!

    May 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Bob

      Here are some things the bible says: Luke 19:27 "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me.' – Jesus.

      Luke 14:26: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple."

      May 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Colin

      Whitney. I couldn't agree more. The Bible has given me so many good answers. Now, whenever anyone injurs one of my slaves, I make them buy me a new one; whenever my children are disobedient I kill them and whenever I have a few too many, I sleep with my daughters.

      Lord be praised, how much I have learned from the good book.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Willie

      My IPOD is not working correctly and much like christianity, it came with no instructions. Please let me know where in the bible that I can find info on how to fix it.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Bruce

      Camping read those same verses that talk about the day and the hour, as did I, and Camping dealt with those verses head-on.

      Most Christians I meet do taptances around Matthew 24:34 and the meaning of "this generation." The bible does not help them. They come to their own conclusions. It doesn't matter what the bible says. Everybody comes to their own conclusions. And they are pretty much always the wrong conclusions.

      No, the bible is not enough to keep people from error. It takes more than that to come to an understanding of theological ideas. The bible is not a panacea. It's a double-edged sword, most-often wounding those who don't know how to wield it rather than wounding those they seek to injure with it.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  8. Juve

    So, if it was a spiritual judgment...? What happened to the bodies that were suppose to resurrect?
    He can't use that "spiritual" crap as an excuse. That's why it's a resurrection. It's not a spiritual thing, resurrection is a physical phenomenon and it didn't happen on May 21st. So if there was no resurrection, then there was no judgment either.
    Case closed... for now.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  9. Alex Gessong

    "...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." Whoa! Doesn't that mean he's saying "we were right, but the Bible got it wrong"? And since these guys are claiming that The Rapture actually did happen on the 21st, what exactly do they think The Rapture is? Are they claiming that their souls went to heaven last Saturday, in which case their bodies are still walking around as...what...zombies? I can't wait to hear what they'll say on October 22nd.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  10. chryl

    someone put this man in a nursing home...I'm sure there are a lot of others in there that talk crazy!!!

    May 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  11. Toranj

    This guy is NOT an idiot.
    THOSE who follow him are idiots.

    This poor guy is just another mental patient. Sad is our taxes going to his medicare for his non-finding cure!

    May 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • bobby

      so hes not an idiot....... but hes a mental patient?

      May 24, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  12. The Truth

    People keep repeating Matthew 24:36 about Jesus not knowing the day. But keep in mind that this was the year 33bc when he was still on earth. When he was resurrected, went to heavens and waited to be the king of the kingdom, God must have told him the day and the hour, since Jesus is the one that will take the lead in the War of God against the wicked people: Armaggedon. Jesus Christ does know the day and the time as of today (Hebrews 10:12,13; Revelation 11:15)

    Mtthew 24:36 "However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. ( New Living Translation (©2007)

    Hebrew 10:12,13 "12But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy."

    Revelation 11:15 "The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever."

    Revelation 12:7-9 "7And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him."

    May 24, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Horus

      33 BC....wow...even academic theologians can't agree on dates...how'd you narrow to that? Divine inspiration?

      May 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Willie

      Nothing truthful in what you were saying. The book of Matthew was written long after that. None of those pretty little red letters are actual jesus quotes, they are from hundreds of years later. There is zero evidence outside the bible that jesus ever lived in the first place. Christianity is the greatest lie of all time.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Alex Gessong

      @The Truth: the truth is that this Camping guy is a nut. BTW, the Book of Revelation predicts the fall of the Roman Empire, not the end of the World. It's written in code. "Babylon" is code for the city of Rome, and the "Beast" is the Roman Emperor. The "seven heads" are the seven hills of Rome. The books of the Bible were written for the people of the times, not for future generations. People have been dreading the end of the world for thousands of years, because of men like Harold Camping.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  13. Willie

    I see the end of religion coming. Please send me money to help this prophesy come about.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  14. Brian

    I think Mr. Camping needs to read the book of 2 Peter. The WHOLE book. It'll take 15 minutes. The same verses he is using to support his "...a day is like a thousand years" argument is sandwiched between verses about false prophets and descriptions of what the end times will bring. By his math, if 7 days= 7,000 years, then what about the 30 year tribulation? Then we'll be waiting 10,950,000 years before the coming of Christ. This man is dangerous to the Christian faith. All I'm saying about that.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Bruce

      Actually the 30 year tribulation means we wait about a month. Please pay attention. 😛

      May 24, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Bruce

      Or about 43 minutes... I always get the math wrong.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  15. onlyhuman

    To the people that pray the world will end and they are the only ones that deserve to be saved. That's being arrogant. And the last time I checked that's a sin. Also praying that others will die for sins you think they are guilty of. That's an even bigger sin.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • airwx

      Last time I looked it said we were to work out our own salvation....nothing in there about condemning others...

      May 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  16. billy Smith

    stop living in fear!


    May 24, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  17. nru

    Can I have all your money on Oct 20? I gaurantee I will not be getting raptured then

    May 24, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  18. JoJo

    Thanks, Camping, your screw-up strikes another blow for humanity, rationality, and a better world.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  19. AreYouKiddingMe

    I can believe people fall for this type of things, but if people again buy this sh**t . You know what they say Search Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me

    May 24, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  20. Willie

    So if this does happen in October and I see a bunch of dead naked xtians floating up to the sky can I get my gun out and shoot at them? I mean, I missed the rapture and I'm going to hell so what is the purpose of law then? Target practice!!!

    May 24, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Bruce

      You just wanted to put "dead" and "naked" in the same sentence. Admit it. 😛

      May 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
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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.