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. JH

    I'd love to talk to Mr. Camping. First of all, the Bible doesn't teach about a "rapture." The Bible doesn't teach that a human will be able to discern the time or date.

    Absolutely God will end this world at the time of His choosing, which neither Jesus nor the angels know when that is. The Bible teaches us that the Lord will come, and sound His trumpet, and He will deal at that time with the wicked and the righteous, at the same time. There will be a new Heaven and new Earth for the righteous, and the wicked will be dealt with. There will be no "rapture," no cars left without drivers, or any of that. That is NOT taught in the Bible. There is a school of pre-millenial thought that began 100 or so years ago that believes in a "rapture" and that the wicked will be left here for some period of time before the end of the world, etc.

    The word "rapture" is not even in the original Hebrew or Greek, the translated word is only found in a Latin translation from the original Scripture.

    I think my favorite section of Scripture pertaining to this is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:8.

    Mr. Camping needs to actually read his Bible.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Horus

      The only absolute possibility of the end is when the sun reaches sufficient mass to swallow the earth. To state that "God will absolutely bring the end" is unprovable, and therefore not absolute.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Joe

      The Bible may not use the word "rapture", but it does still teach the idea of a rapture. The verses you mention in your post allude to the rapture (being caught up in the air to meet the Lord, immediately after those that have died have been raised). The book of Revelation also speaks of a specific time of tribulation on earth, with a specific time frame, 7 years. It is not until AFTER this that Jesus actually returns to the earth to set up his millenial reign. What would be the point of being caught up in the air to meet Jesus if we are already on the earth when he returns at the end of the tribulation. This suggests a rapture before the tribulation.

      The body of believers on earth in the past and today is collectively referred to as "the church". In the book of revelation, "the church" is not refferenced, again suggesting that "the church" is no longer present, i.e. has been raptured, before the 7 year tribulation period.

      The Bible also states that God does not change, that his character does not change. The Biblehas other examples of mini "raptures". God "raptured" Noah and his family from the destruction of the flood. God "raptured" Lot and his family out of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God "raptured" the Israelites out of Egypt. God "raptured" Rahab from the destruction of Jericho. In all of these cases, God "raptured" or delivered the faithful few out of or from destruction that was on the wicked. It stands to reason then, that God would also rapture his faithful church from the destruction and punishment of the tribulation in the last days.

      We can also give credence to the idea of a rapture before the tribulation if we look at Jewish culture. The Bible is full of symbolism, simile and metaphor. One of the biggest metaphors in the bible, is the comparing of Jesus and the Church as a bride and groom. In ancient Jewish culture, a man would first have to pay a dowry, or a price, or some kind for his bride, and they would then be betroathed. The groom would then build a place for he and his bride to live. This would most often be simply an addition to the house his father built, as multiple generations would usually live together. After the time of betrothal ended, the groom would then, in the middle of the night, sneak into his brides room unexpectedly to the bride, and take her away (rapture her). They would then have a wedding feast that lasted for 7 days. This entire tradition mirrors what the Bible speaks of with Jesus and the Church. Jesus paid a dowry, a price, for the church by sacrificing his life for us on the cross. When he was going to ascend up to heaven, he told his disciples that he was going to go to his father's house to prepare a room for them. The Bible states that we will return when we do not expect, in the twinkling of an eye, to take us away. And teh tribulation lasts for how long? 7 years (in the Bible, it is not uncommon for a day to be used to symbolise a year). So where is the church during the tribulation? At the wedding feast.

      The idea for a rapture prior to the start of the tribulation also makes more sense when we remember that the bible says that nobody knows when that event will occur, since it will be when nobody expects. The tribulation officially starts with the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and the anti-Christ. If the rapture were to occur either half-way through, as some belive, or at the end, as others believe, we would know when exactly to expect it, because we would have a specific time table.

      This is also one reason that I know that Camping and his crew simply did not make a "math mistake" or God simply postponed judgement because of their prayers. The bible specifically says that nobody knows when it will be. The Bible is also very specific that the time of tribulation will last for 7 years, not 5 months as Camping states. Also, while there will be earthquakes, this is not specifically how the earth will end. The Bible also states that if any man claims to speak for God, or makes a prediction or prophecy in the name of God, and that thing does not come to pass, then that person is a false prophet. Camping has proven himself a false prophet on more than one occasion now. God would never allow his prophets, those that speak in his name, to make an error with prophecy. God would be perfectly clear with them. So do not trust Camping.

      The Bible does speak of a coming rapture though, and a coming judgement on the world. Of that much, Camping was correct, but don't listen to him when it comes to knowing about it, read the Bible instead.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  2. Jeff

    I believe that Camping does in fact think that he is interpreting the bible and that he is right. But one person believing it won't stir the pot....it the people that are ignorant enough to follow him. These people give away everyting because of the words of one man who cant back up his prediction outside of the bible.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  3. david

    Now that the world has had its chance to, IN ONE ACCORD,
    mock 1 of God’s greatest mysteries, Now that
    every single element , every single facet of Christianity , every
    ...single heathen has had a chance to display their “WISDOM” –
    God’s “FOOLISHNESS” will show

    May 24, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Stevie7

      God can have foolishness? And weakness? So much for omnipotence and omniscience.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  4. Margroks

    What a moron! Anyone who listens to this guy is a moron.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  5. gdouglaso

    Shut up. Go away. Quit making a mockery of God and a fool of yourself!
    CNN...please quit covering this trash just so that you can get cheap ratings.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  6. D G

    Good grief CNN, would you quit giving this idiot so much press time? I am pretty sure you gave him more headlines in the past few months, than any other news agency out there. Therefore you bear some of the blame for any sheep that followed this jacka*s. Although, anyone stupid enough to give up their belongings and life for him, really deserve exactly what they got anyway.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Madtown

      You're right, however look at how many comments this story has generated! That's all CNN cares about. A lot of comments to a story means a lot of hits to CNN.com, which means advertisers are happy, which means more $$$ for CNN. Any notion of journalistic integrity or responsibility is secondary. If there's a topic that will get people talking, CNN(and to be fair, any major media outlet) will be all over it. The continuing presence of $arah Palin is another fine example.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  7. Sam

    The end of the world comes when YOUR life here on earth is done. In the meantime, be the best person you can be to yourself, your family, your neighbors, your school/workmates, your pets and STAY FAR AWAY from religious crackpots like this guy. Clearly, he's self-delusional and needs to be put in the rubber room for good (along with his brainless followers)!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  8. David

    Coming to your local billboard soon; "Rapture, The Second and Final Warning, You Will be Swept up this time, Guaranteed".

    May 24, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Nonimus

      Actually it's the "Third 'Final warning'"

      May 24, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Joe B-b-b-b-bob

      I just want to know - will it count as a paid holiday at work?

      May 24, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Joe B-b-b-b-bob

      Guaranteed? How about a little bet on that, David? A couple hundred thou? C'mon, put your money where your mouth is! Show you've got the courage of your convictions! C'mon, dude, put up or shut up!

      May 24, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  9. Big_L

    Atheism is so amusing....so bold on the internet, yet in the real world they never have much of an argument.

    Anyway....this Camping guy has a demon, & it seems like he is getting a lot of poor gullible souls to follow him. It's starting to not be so funny anymore.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Really?

      Atheism "pans out" about as well in the real world as Christianity or any other religion. And you're going to follow up you ignorant "observation" with the argument that he has a demon?

      I would go on about what a lack of sense you seem to have but....I think your post stands pretty well for itself.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Stevie7

      What argument, exactly, does Christianity have? A 2000+ year old book told me that the things in the 2000+ year old book are true, therefore the book must be true? Because it says so. At least atheism is logical and rational.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Horus

      Neither Atheists, nor believers have a supported argument. The existence of a "God" or "Gods" cannot be proved nor disproved by today's understanding of the Universe.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Stevie7

      Neither can one disprove the existence of the tooth fairy. Or the flying spaghetti monster. The burden of proof is on claimant. A complete and total lack of evidence can only logically lead one to the assumption that there is no Christian god.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Nonimus

      If you resort to demons in everyday conversations, then I can understand why you think Atheists don't have much of an argument. I'm sure when you bring up demons, Atheists just shake their head and walk away.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  10. Joe B-b-b-b-bob

    Since senile, delusional old farts are big news these days, I have a neighbor you should meet, CNN. . . . .

    May 24, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  11. Geo

    This can only be proof that reincarnation is a fact, for Harold Camping must surely be William Miller reincarnate, and his followers share the same "cognitive dissonance" as Miller's followers.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  12. Gk

    I feel the need to point out that this man is not representative of all Christians any more than Rush Limbaugh is representative of all Americans. He is a man pursuing his own ends, his own glory. We laughed about the prediction at church on Sunday. No one I know took this seriously. The whole "no one knows the time" thing is pretty clear.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  13. david

    The rapture of the church may not have happened but ITS GONNA HAPPEN, and all the mocking and scoffing will turn into weeping and gnashing of teeth, u dont even have to print this cause if you have not admitted that u r a filthy rotten sinner in need of a savior u will remember it.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Joe B-b-b-b-bob

      David, I bet a nice white sleeveless form fitting jacket would suit you well.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • SHRIKE

      LOL – sure.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Stevie7

      Yup, mocking = say, murder. Because god is a narcissist as is clearly shown in the bible. Worship him, or suffer for all of eternity. Very loving.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • Madtown

      David, how do you know this to be true? What makes you so sure?

      May 24, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Nonimus

      Hey now. I may be a sinner, but I bath regularly, so I'm not a filthy sinner.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  14. Tommeh

    Geez, I hope we can get through the World Series before the world ends...I'll be really upset if that's unresolved!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  15. Jay

    History is filled with those who erroneously have predicted the timing of the rapture and the end of the world. It is my belief that the rapture will occur at some future time, and that the end of the world will come as foretold in the Bible. However, Scripture teaches that while there are, and will be, indications that the end is approaching, that no one, other than God Himself, knows the day or the time. And that is why we are to live each and every day of our lives in such a way that we will be prepared for that moment, whenever it may come. As for accountability and responsibility, those who mistakenly lead others who are willing to follow, must accept at least their share of the blame and the consequences.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  16. Jenn

    What I would like to know, is WHO payed for all of those billboards across the country? Let me guess, this idiot used the church's money-and these idiot followers keep believing! I'd like to know who they are...I have a Gold Mine in East Jabib that I'd like to sell them!

    May 24, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Joe B-b-b-b-bob

      And think of all the good that money could have done - for schools, charities . . . all wasted now.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  17. Ralph

    No one should be in a rush to judge this misguided soul. I know he's wrong because according to my calculations, the rapture will occur on June 2, 2078. Unfortunately I will be long dead by then, but in the meantime, bow down to me and send me your cash.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:59 am |
  18. scott501

    I'm not clear, did the world end on May 21st?

    May 24, 2011 at 9:59 am |
  19. James Gojor

    Well lets see how it goes!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:59 am |
  20. Barry

    Consider: The Church has had differences and divisions from the beginning, yet the Church and the Christian faith has survived and thrived, despite unspeakable torture and persecutions during the first two centuries (viz, Nero’s reign through Domitian’s reign) and despite the challenges and problems that followed over the next eighteen hundred years.

    I don’t know when the end will come, but I know that for me (and you) the end will come soon enough—whether through natural causes or because of the end of time.

    Life is short, like a mist that appears for a brief time and then vanishes. That’s enough for me.

    For this reason and because of the witness of the early Christians—who, incidentally hated falsehood and endured torture, ostracism and death, in order to testify to the Gospel message—I believe in Christ and put my trust in God’s promises and his word.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:59 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.