The End, again? If it is, we thank you for your time
This time around, there are no RVs or signs carrying the "awesome news" of the end of the world.
October 21st, 2011
06:00 AM ET

The End, again? If it is, we thank you for your time

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - In case you are reading this, might we suggest you read really fast?

The world may end any minute now, if the latest doomsday prediction is on target.

We realize October 21 didn’t get the shout-out that May 21 did, so our apologies if this comes as a surprise. But if you had heard the complete message the first time, you would have known.

“The warning is out,” Dennis Morrell, 44, of Jacksonville, Florida, reminded us a couple of days ago. “There’s nothing else you can do.”

Earlier this year, and with the backing of the Christian broadcasting network Family Radio, billboards touting May 21 as Judgment Day dotted the landscape. RVs plastered with the fateful date crisscrossed the country as believers wearing T-shirt announcements and waving fliers sounded the alarm.

That was to be the day when a select 2% to 3% of the world’s population, predetermined by God, would be raptured up to heaven. Everyone else, the story went, would endure months-long judgment amid chaos, destruction and unspeakable suffering. A massive earthquake would ravage the land, bodies would be tossed about and terror would reign for the duration.

Five months or exactly 153 days later, it was said, the world would disappear – which brings us to today.

This was the schedule laid out by God’s word in the Bible, the faithful said. It was the plan deciphered and shared by Harold Camping, now 90, the founder of Family Radio, based in Oakland, California.

Camping, who has an engineering degree, had spent more than 50 years combing through his Bible and crunching numbers embedded in scripture. Sure, he’d made a similar end-of-the-world prediction for September 6, 1994, but who hasn’t been tripped up by biblical verses? With additional studying, calculations and new signs that would be revealed later, he said earlier this year that he had no doubts this time around.

“I know it’s absolutely true, because the Bible is always absolutely true,” he told CNN before May 21. “If I were not faithful that would mean that I’m a hypocrite.”

Problem is, May 21 came and went, and the world remained the same. Soon the billboards disappeared. The T-shirts and hats worn by believers got tossed. The RVs were quietly parked, tucked away in storage yards, possibly sold.

Camping came forth, two days later, with an explanation - and his last news conference. October 21 would still be the end, he said, but a “loving and merciful” God had opted to spare humanity the five months of turmoil.

A couple of weeks later, Camping had a stroke. He is said to be recuperating at home after a hospital and rehab stay and has only made a handful of radio addresses in the months since. Family Radio declined our requests to interview him.

Fred Store, a 66-year-old retired electrician and longtime Family Radio listener, dedicated seven months of his life to sharing the “awesome news” that was the May 21 message. He led a caravan of believers, five RVs strong, on a tour of the United States for Family Radio. He was in Boston in May when he expected to be raptured up to heaven.

When nothing happened, “We were caught by surprise. ... But we realize now that it’s very possible that we misunderstood some of the things we thought were true,” Store said this week from his home in Sacramento, California, where he has put up a number of caravan friends.

“I believe that October 21 is the end, and I trust in God. Whatever way he chooses to end things will be perfect.”

On the Family Radio website, the May 21 events, or nonevents, have been clarified.

“What really happened is that God accomplished exactly what he wanted to happen. That was to warn the whole world that on May 21 God’s salvation program would be finished. ... For the next five months, except for the elect (the true believers), the whole world is under God’s final judgment,” the statement reads.

As for that massive, body-flinging earthquake anticipated by believers, well, it turned out to be less literal.

“We always look at the word ‘earthquake’ to mean the earth, or ground, is quaking or shaking violently. However, in the Bible the word ‘earth’ can include people as well as ground. ... Therefore we have learned from our experience of last May 21 what actually happened. All of mankind was shaken with fear. Indeed the Earth (or mankind) did quake in a way it had never before been shaken.”

No one was raptured on May 21, but that’s just because “universal judgment” will come on the last day. “The elect” or “true believers” are still guaranteed their day of rapture, and everyone else will be “annihilated together with the whole physical world.”

For Paul Anatiychuk, 36, of Charlotte, North Carolina, the way this played out has been a relief, a blessing. A husband and father of two children, ages 8 and 9, he wasn’t sure if his own family members would be saved. The thought of leaving them behind on May 21, to suffer what would come over the next five months, troubled him.

“God tortures them while we’re hanging in the clouds?” he said this week. “It didn’t completely fit.”

Now, Anatiychuk said, he can take solace knowing that when he’s saved, sinners will simply die.

“Of course (the world) has to be destroyed and burned up by fire,” he said. “But it’s going to be very quiet.”

Finding a way to save faith, and face, is part of the process when a prophecy fails, said Lorenzo DiTommaso, an associate professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal, who has been studying apocalyptic worldviews for a dozen years.

He said those who become disillusioned aren’t quick to talk, and the rest find a new way to spin what has transpired.

When nothing happened on May 21, Camping was left with a choice, said DiTommaso, whose book, “The Architecture of Apocalypticism,” is scheduled for publication next spring.

Camping could have admitted he was wrong. He could have said the calculations were off and needed further analysis. Or he could have spiritualized the apocalypse, which is exactly what he did, DiTommaso said.

That tack, that way of looking at the apocalypse, has a long history, he said, and dates back to early Christian theologians. Tyconius, in the late fourth century, took this approach, as - more notably - did Augustine in the early fifth century.

Augustine “preferred to understand the millennium predicted in the Revelation of John in spiritual and metaphoric rather than literal terms,” DiTommaso said. He “sought to diminish the emphasis on hard calculations.”

The obvious advantage of this sort of interpretation for a man like Camping, who has prided himself on his numbers, is that he can “divorce himself a little bit from the fact that he was so darn wrong.”

What Camping will say - if anything - come Saturday, assuming there is a Saturday, is anyone’s guess.

But DiTommaso said a new explanation, perhaps a new doomsday date, may be on the horizon. It would be just another in a long line of end-time predictions across the ages.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another attempt” by Camping, he said. “If he were an artist, this is his masterpiece, his life work.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Belief • End times

soundoff (2,353 Responses)
  1. monomial

    anyone that believes scripture literally is setting themselves up to be taken by this fool Camping and his ilk. You can't protect people from themselves.

    October 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • reasonabledoubt

      god rested on the 7th day and is still resting...PBUH...

      October 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Logic Fail

      If you take any of this literally you’re a fool.

      October 21, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  2. Daws

    "For Paul Anatiychuk, [...] wasn’t sure if his own family members would be saved. The thought of leaving them behind on May 21, to suffer what would come over the next five months, troubled him.

    “God tortures them while we’re hanging in the clouds?” he said this week. “It didn’t completely fit.”"

    So instead he chooses to believe they simply die...so much better >.<

    October 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  3. Alkali

    I would hate to be the poor journalist forced to cover this story.

    October 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • lroy

      Excuse me Al, help me out here. If the world ended everyone will either be dying/dead or raptured, right? So who's going to cover the story?

      October 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • reasonabledoubt

      Alkali maybe you should neutralize yourself with acid...

      October 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  4. Jeremy

    Isn't it possible that God wishes to save absolutely nobody? Maybe the rapture happened back in May but God was like "Hmmm, nah, they all suck. This species is doomed."

    October 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • zee

      Fine, who needs him. If you at the old testament, it's obvious he's a mean, vicious bully.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • reasonabledoubt

      @jeremy you are right, adam had two sons cain and able, and they had no wives, hence we come from la..la..land...

      October 21, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  5. CS

    I don't understand how anyone could think they can calculate a date. If anyone thinks they "know when" then they are contradicting very plain language from Jesus in Matthew 24 starting with verse 36. I'm not going to type it all out becasue the Bible is only for people who are interested in it. It's a little like going to class at school. If you're interested in it, if you enjoy the subject, then you're probably going to put effort into understanding it; getting to the bottom of it; wanting to figure out how it's going to help you in life.

    October 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  6. Mountainwench

    "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine . . . "
    See you tomorrow!!

    October 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  7. magruber

    a guy calling himself jesus in an alleyway said he'd rapture me. he made me take my cloths off. then he did somthing. I dont want to talk about it anymore.

    October 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Fred

      Did you have to stick celery in your but?

      October 21, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • reasonabledoubt


      October 21, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  8. reasonabledoubt

    If God created the world, where was he before the creation? If you say he was transcendent then and needed no support, where is he now?
    How could God have made this world without any raw material? If you say that he made this first, and then the world, you are faced with an endless regression.
    If you declare that this raw material arose naturally you fall into another fallacy, For the whole universe might thus have been its own creator, and have arisen quite naturally.
    If God created the world by an act of his own will, without any raw material, then it is just his will and nothing else — and who will believe this silly nonsense?
    If he is ever perfect and complete, how could the will to create have arisen in him? If, on the other hand, he is not perfect, he could no more create the universe than a potter could.
    If he is form-less, action-less and all-embracing, how could he have created the world? Such a soul, devoid of all modality, would have no desire to create anything.
    If he is perfect, he does not strive for the three aims of man, so what advantage would he gain by creating the universe?
    If you say that he created to no purpose because it was his nature to do so, then God is pointless. If he created in some kind of sport, it was the sport of a foolish child, leading to trouble.
    If he created because of the karma of embodied beings [acquired in a previous creation] He is not the Almighty Lord, but subordinate to something else
    If out of love for living beings and need of them he made the world, why did he not make creation wholly blissful free from misfortune?
    If he were transcendent he would not create, for he would be free: Nor if involved in transmigration, for then he would not be almighty. Thus the doctrine that the world was created by God makes no sense at all,
    And God commits great sin in slaying the children whom he himself created. If you say that he slays only to destroy evil beings, why did he create such beings in the first place?

    October 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  9. Joe

    Being a catholic I was brought up with all this stuff about the rapture. But I always wondered how much of this is true since the first written version of the bible appeared about one thousand years after all the events actually occured. Generation upon generations passed down stories and we all know how telephone tag goes when someone says something to someone else who then say something slightly different to the next person. 15 or so people later the original message has completely changed. Maybe thats what happened with the bible. Then we come to the 13th century when according to scholars the bible was rewritten. This time it omitted how important women were to the beginings of the catholic relegion. Do I believe in God, yes, do I beleive in the bible, spirtually yes literally no. This is were I believe Camping and other like him go wrong. You just can't take the bible literally.

    October 21, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • ThinkForYourself

      I have no idea where you're getting your information, but the RCC definitely does not buy in to the rapture – never has. And the bible was compiled around the third or forth century (I'm too lazy to look up when the council of Nicaea was

      October 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Christman

      copies of the bible qwew found as old as 350AD they were the same as today. It can't be helped if your church changed the bible. Known fact.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • lroy

      She's right, Catholics do not believe in rapture. You've been misinformed friend.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Yo

      If not taken literally then why was ambiguity needed when writing the bible…so different religions erupt and create endless fight? The writers certainly had the option to write clear and literal paragraphs. Point is, do be too wrapped up with bible.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  10. Christman

    Not all Christians are stupid. The rapture does not happen at all. Those that believe this are a small number. The truth is out there. If God wants you to know.

    October 21, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  11. Vishal

    His Dooms day may be near, not mine, its still ahead 30-40 years from now. Doomsday is when you die, because there is no way that you will ever come to know that the entire earth got doomed, until you are the last person to die.

    October 21, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  12. Trin

    So because a bunch of people got in a flap about the May 21st date – that made it a self-fulfilling prophecy. BS. The sooner the world realizes that it can survive without religion – the better!

    October 21, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  13. Tony

    Shut up and go away forever you crazy people.....and please take the Kardashians with you!!!

    October 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  14. will

    Silly Humans!

    October 21, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  15. Mark

    Camping is a false profit. Scripture is clear on the second coming of Jesus and the end times. Only God knows when that date and time will be. Not even Jesus knows when that will be. How can a man know something that not even the son of God knows? Anyone claiming to know this is a liier and false profit. Non-believer's are loving this as opportunity and pointing the finger at true believers and laughing at us. The turth is, there will be an end time and Jesus will return to earth and the scriptures and will of God will be fullfilled. Camping is a false profit. If you want life eternal, get to know Jesus Christ of Nazarath, now. The naysayers of creationism will not be laughing when Jesus returns.

    October 21, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Tony

      Mark – Please learn how to spell correctly.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Wraith

      Actually, no. There are a whole *bunch* of reasons we're laughing at you–this one's just the latest!

      October 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Eric R.

      Very well put Mark!! I couldn't have said it better myself.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Mark

      Tony – thank you for the spell check. Thankfully for me, spelling accuracy is not a requirement to get into heaven.
      Wraith – If I'm wrong you've lost nothing, howeve if you're wrong, you've lost everything, eternally. One day you'll be standing at judgement seat wondering why no one could convience you of the truth. Actually, you had your chance and you made the decision to reject God. The good news is it's not too late for you, yet. You still have a chance at redemption and life everlasting.

      Tony – sorry again for any spelling errors. Frankly, I don't care. The important part is the message.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Wraith

      Mark, you are mistaken–I have my faith. However, my faith does not involve your Abrahamic god, so no, I will not be standing before him when my time draws to an end here. Your god demands that none shall have other gods before him, never denying the existance of other gods, just saying that one should worship him instead. I find, "Him," selfish, egocentric, cruel, and aloof. *Not* someone I'd really like to spend my afterlife with, thanks. 😉

      October 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  16. Nathan

    The Bible tells us of Jesus saying that no man, not even himself, knows the day and time that he will return. It is left to God's judgement and will be a secret until after it happens. Why then do these people who claim to believe the Bible and be Christians insist on trying to devine the date? If they were to succeed, Jesus would become a liar and their whole faith destroyed. As for me, I think Jesus is not a liar, and it's pointless to even try to figure out when he will come.

    October 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • ThinkForYourself

      So then ... is jesus not god? Or is he distinct from the father – meaning you're polytheistic. Or does god have multiple personality disorder and keep secrets from himself?

      Lemme guess – god works in mysterious ways

      October 21, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Kath

      So True!

      October 21, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Regis990

      The Bible is a big book of fables, nothing more.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Eric R.

      Regis....Well there is a massive boat to go with that book of "fables" that has been photographed on the top on Mount Ararat.

      To all other replies....Jesus is God's son. They are connected in ways that we don't totally understand(as is the Holy Spirit), but it is very clear that Jesus has verbal command over life, death, and much more. We were engineered and God is that engineer. Jesus is who he proclaimed to be and offers Grace and Mercy to us....to set us right with God. Do choose to accept that gift before his return.....and he will return. We simply don't know when.....the Bible foretold many events. Don't be so quick to dismiss the truth, because some Joe Blow says it's a book of lies. Read and decide for yourself....God will reveal the truth to you. A good place to start is with "The Message". May God Bless!!

      October 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  17. Kristen

    I just got taken... Hard in the closet here at work.. What are we talking about again?

    October 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Wraith

      I wanna work where you work. 😉

      October 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  18. George

    We have until midnight tonight for him to be correct, and I don't want to alarm anyone, but the sky in my area has just cracked open and a large black area is spreading. I'm calling the police now.

    October 21, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Fred

      Same here!!!!!! I thought it was a storm but its so black!! I just called the police. They said to remain calm & wait it out...... whats it doing there now????????? !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      October 21, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Schlangemann


      I was supposed to take delivery of my new car tomorrow. Rats.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • lroy

      It is getting cloudy, but merrily typing you watching Hello Dolly and coloring (already sent my quota of resumes for the week). If you're gonna go, go happy.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  19. Tim

    it is the end of the world, R.E.M broke up.

    October 21, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Jenny K

      ...only of the world as we know it.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  20. Tyler

    Just shows, once again, how gullible christians are. See you all tomorrow.

    October 21, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • monomial

      what an idiot! such gullibility is not limited to Christians.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Jenny K

      I'm a Christian, and I didn't believe Camping's proclamations. I also do not believe that labeling any single person or group of persons will solve any of my own problems. Even if Christians are gullible, who cares? Does it hurt you or obstruct any aspect of your life?

      October 21, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Schlangemann

      Yes, actually, organized religion obstructs the progress of our entire world, so, yeah. stfu.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
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About this blog

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.