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. V

    So he predicts that it would end in 5 months now!
    WOW even when the bible says that no man know the hour, even when his second prediction has fallen on it's face.
    this is the work of a deceiver.

    I listened to a radio show yesterday were people who believed it were devastated that it didn't happen...
    this is all crazy

    May 24, 2011 at 3:15 am |
    • Bill

      If Jesus were to appear he'd be locked up and called a lunatic. He ain't coming back – get over it. It's a scam; it's all about the money.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:27 am |
  2. Fu Ling Yu

    New interpretations please! What will be the next 12 dates after Oct 21?

    May 24, 2011 at 3:13 am |
    • Nightwyn

      Well he seems to like May 21 ...

      May 24, 2011 at 3:40 am |
  3. Gal

    The man's an idiot. Treat him as such, because the Bible doesn't like, but he certainly does. Just another false prophet loser, who will be condemned as such in the end.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:12 am |
    • Gal

      Typo... 'the Bible doesn't lie'

      May 24, 2011 at 3:14 am |
    • Guy

      Who's the idiot? Learn how to spell.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:19 am |
    • Guy 2

      You are the idiot because it was clearly a typo. I'm sure they can spell just fine.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  4. Mookie

    Demetri and Sofia, you say the world laughs at us but who do you call when someone invades your borders?

    May 24, 2011 at 3:11 am |
  5. Alan

    *cough* bullsh!t

    May 24, 2011 at 3:11 am |
  6. Joel

    The interpretation/prediction for the end of the world was never May 21 – that idea comes from the media fudging facts in a rush. October 21 has always been what was said for the last day before the end. Also, everyone loves to report that there is millions of dollars on hand. That is not supported by any fact, only speculation. Vast majority of the donations has been spent going outwards to the world to get the message out. All the fact fudging by media and subsequent gobbling up of those facts by general public makes me want to hurl.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:10 am |
    • Nightwyn

      I think a lot of people are ridiculing him because he is in fact implying he is God since he is privy to knowledge that is set forth in the bible as something that only God knows, not even Jesus.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:44 am |
    • Nightwyn

      Wait didn't all the billboards say May not Oct?

      May 24, 2011 at 3:46 am |
  7. ReVawn Cox

    My Bible say: But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, ( Jesus ) but only the Faother. ( God ) Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. Mark 13:32-33. So no man can say when Jesus is coming back for his church. So if a man says a date you can count on it that will not be the day that Jesus returns.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:09 am |
    • Bill

      Jesus ain't coming back – get over it.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:19 am |
  8. Shifter

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

    If this guy wants to claim to be a true Christian, he should try reading the book he is preaching about.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:09 am |
  9. Carey

    To Harold Camping and all who try to teach the Bible: "My brethren, be not many teachers, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation." (James 3:1)

    It's not that the Bible was proven wrong- only Harold Camping was! Christ will come back and all will stand before him, small and great. Harold Camping does not know when that will be and has no business giving dates. Nevertheless Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who at some point WILL take his power to himself and reign over the world (Revelation 11:15-18). His rule is characterized by love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity (Hebrews 1:8-9). But many who read this love something he calls evil and/or hate something he calls good. The conscience and the word of God bear witness to that truth. Now there is still a chance to change your mind, turn from your sin to follow Jesus on the narrow way that leads to life, and find mercy. Who will be honest and say that they would not be ready if Jesus did come back? Who will be wise and do something about it and prepare for eternity? There will be no mercy at the judgment- but now you can end your rebellion and call on the Lord Jesus to save you. To hold back and wait for another day is to refuse his salvation. Get ready now while you still can!

    "Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." (Acts 3:26); "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness" (1 Peter 2:24a); "Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7); "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27)

    May 24, 2011 at 3:08 am |
    • SKyle

      What a long-winded and pointless post... Now tell us the story about Puff the Magic Dragon.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:12 am |
    • Bill

      If any of you believe Jesus is coming back, you're as stupid as that idiot preacher. Get over it.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:22 am |
  10. R Burns

    Why is this even still being followed? If we can do anything about global warming and the ensuing environmental changes at this late date, shouldn't space be devoted to something more constructive than this type of sensationalism? I'm deeply religious and all for relying on God, believing in His works and promises – but there have been so many of these incidents over the past couple of hundred years! Scripture clearly states that man cannot know the hour or the time when God will appear, when Christ will return, when an apocalypse might occur. Let's busy ourselves with individual and societal issues that can make a difference!

    May 24, 2011 at 3:07 am |
  11. andrew

    what is his rationale for this revision?
    publish it.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:06 am |
  12. JoyfulGypsy

    It amazes me how many people are so obsessed with death and destruction. Many also get so wrapped up preparing for an afterlife that they fail to live and appreciate the beautiful day going on without them and squander their lives cowering under fears and threats, holding themselves back from living fully and joyfully. I feel for the people that woke up to just another day on May 22nd, still in their alarmists "Doomsday" t-shirts – broke, homeless and disillusioned. There's something very disturbing about folks actually being DISAPPOINTED no horrific earthquakes or catastrophic events unleashed their horror upon the earth causing terror and suffering. These people really need to take a step back.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:05 am |
  13. james

    Jesus said “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. " Mark 13:32

    May 24, 2011 at 3:03 am |
  14. cplnorton

    Let's see. Wrong in 1994, wrong about May 21st, and will be wrong about October 21st.

    Three strikes bud, you're out!!!!

    May 24, 2011 at 3:00 am |
    • Nightwyn

      He broke down each of his predictions, saying they were all fulfilled: May 21, 1988, judgment came upon the churches; Sept. 7, 1994, judgment continued on the churches; then on May 21, 2011, judgment came upon the entire world. now 10/21 So that makes 4

      May 24, 2011 at 3:07 am |
  15. Devin Walker

    maybe this old guy's wold is going to end....

    May 24, 2011 at 2:57 am |
  16. Chris

    Essentially he says that it is not him who was wrong, it is the bible, or God. LOL.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:55 am |
  17. Demetri

    This guy must be loving the press you mindless Americans are giving him. Just like Terry Jones. No wonder the world laughs at you.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:54 am |
    • George

      and who is terry jones by the way?

      May 24, 2011 at 3:08 am |
    • Shifter

      Don't be daft. Most Americans laugh at them too.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:13 am |
  18. Sofia

    How embarrassing for the US that this is what tops your most popular stories sections on your "news" sites...

    May 24, 2011 at 2:53 am |
    • Kyle

      Actually, topping the news in the US right now is the tornado in Missouri. But if you feel the need to follow the herd and bash Americans "just because", then you are welcome to it. It really shows sophistication picking random news articles off a website to insult us with. Unfortunately, many news agencies in many countries will post less important news from time to time.... so it doesn't really prove anything, does it?

      May 24, 2011 at 3:09 am |
  19. Jay

    It may sound cruel... but I will chuckle if passes away on October 21st!

    May 24, 2011 at 2:51 am |
    • Jay

      Sorry... if "he" passes away October 21st....

      May 24, 2011 at 2:53 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      What if it is like a Twilight zone episode and the moment he dies the world clicks out. We were just a part of his world when he dies we go.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:54 am |
  20. Karen Engelhardt

    Liar Liar pants on fire, this guy's organization has raked in over 80 million dollars and is STILL taking "donations". He's going directly to Hell. Do not pass Go, do not collect 200 million dollars

    May 24, 2011 at 2:51 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.