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Harold Camping's failed prediction of the rapture

Part 5: Harold Camping's latest set of predictions


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Camping's new predictions:

Camping's predicted that the rapture would probably occur during 1994. It failed, just like all of the other prophecies by various people for various dates in our past.

His second prediction was for 2011-MAY-21. It didn't happen either.

Psychologists have studied what happens to tightly-knit apocalyptic, high-demand religious groups whose anticipated momementous event at a specific time in the future doesn't come to pass. A few members become disallusioned and leave. Most stay and try to find an alternate explanation.

Harold Camping found a solution. He may have been infuenced by the model developed by the Jehovah's Witness. They had predicted that the second coming of Jesus and the War of Armageddon would start in the year 1914. Their membership increased as the date approached. However, the year came and passed without the predicted visible appearance of Christ, the massive genocide of non-Jehovan's Witnesses, and the arrival of the new Kingdom of God. Instead, World War 1 began. The Witnesses' organization, the Watchtower Society, regarded the start of the World War 1 as confirmation that the process leading to end time events and to Christ's return, had started. They decided that -- during 1914 -- Jesus did begin his rule, but did it invisibly, from heaven.

On Sunday, MAY-22, Camping said during a media interview that he felt so badly after his rapture prediction failed to come true that he took refuge in a motel with his wife. He has now come to the conclusion that MAY-21 was an "invisible judgment day" during which only a spiritual judgment took place. He said:

"We've always said May 21 was the day, but we didn't understand altogether the spiritual meaning. May 21 is the day that Christ came and put the world under judgment." 1

Liberal Baptist Rev quotes Camping as stating:

"When you study the Bible, you’re always learning. We had all of our dates correct, we had all of the proofs correct. … Every proof, every sign is all correct. The only thing is, God had not opened our eyes yet to the fact that May 21 was a spiritual coming where as we thought it was a physical coming. But he has come." 1

Some readers of the article in the Toronto Star posted comments about Camping's predictions. 1 Most were rather vitriolic:

  • ChrisInOttawa wrote: "What rubbish! And to think that people throw away their hard-earned money because of shysters like this. It's pretty sad how people are so desperate to believe that there is some higher being that they abandon their basic intelligence."

  • Berny wrote: "The biggest problem people make is they assume the Bible is anything but the work of superstitious, ignorant, bigoted and misogynistic men. Once you realize that, you can file it in its proper place with other works of mythology.

  • Madie wrote: "After working in healthcare for more than 10 years. for me when my time comes, it comes. [There is] nothing I can do to stop it. Why worry about when the world is going to end. Just enjoy life and live every day like its your last.

  • AcrianAir wrote: "Not gonna happen because...I've already reserved the most amazing Hallowe'en costume EVER and I better get to use it or I'll create my own apocalyptic 'rapture' :)"

  • Samhain wrote: "Dont group ... [all Christians] together. I know a lot of people are not religious from the comments here. But don't group all us Christians in with this guy. I goto a church where we just go to worship. No predictions, we don't bother anyone. We are not all like this idiot. The beliefs of myself and my church don't bother anyone."

  • EverHeardOfCommonSense wrote: "Put your money where your mouth is. Harold Camping & all the others who believe what he says, please sign a document transferring all your worldly assets over to me with the closing date of Oct 22. If you believe your own nonsense you should have no qualms doing this as you will have no use for them after Oct 21 anyways. I'm waiting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

This last posting suggests a great way for persons of low ethical standards to make lots of money: Simply make an offer to buy believers' assets now for one tenth of their current value, effective on OCT-22. That way, they believers would have lots of money to live an extravigant lifestyle for five months. Since they expect that their assets and the rest of the world will be totally destroyed on OCT-21 anyway, they might as well cash them in now and benefit from the money. To a true believer, this might be an offer that they could not refuse!

The Christian Post reported that Camping issued an explanation, but "no sincere apology" on Monday, MAY-23, saying:

"On May 21, this last weekend, this is where the spiritual aspect of it really comes through. God again brought judgment on the world. We didn’t see any difference but God brought Judgment Day to bear upon the whole world. The whole world is under Judgment Day and it will continue right up until Oct. 21, 2011 and by that time the whole world will be destroyed. ..."

"I can tell you very candidly that when May 21 came and went, it was a very difficult time for me, a very difficult time. I was wondering, 'What is going on? ..."

"The Bible is a very spiritual book. There are a lot of things that are very factual, very factual, of course, but there are a lot of things that are very spiritual. How to know whether to look at it with a spiritual understanding or a factual understanding is hard to know. ... The fact is when we look at it more spiritually then we find that He did come." 3

After hearing his statement, a reporter told Camping about a mother who had attempted, unsuccessfully, to kill herself and her two children beause she had believed in his predictions. Camping responded:

"Murdering is terrible. It's contrary to everything the Bible teaches. That would have been a horrible thing if she had done that. That would fill me with sorrow if she would do that. The Bible teaches that we are to save life, not kill. ... I'll tell you. What you just told me is a great relief to me because I would be sick at heart if someone had done such a stupid thing."

The reporter asked Camping whether he would accept "responsibility for that." Camping answered no. "I don't have any responsibility. I can't take responsibility for anybody's life. I'm only teaching the Bible." 4 

Camping had earlier predicted the rapture of all saved individuals would occur on 2011-MAY-21. Once the true believers were safely off of the Earth, terrible destruction would begin, causing a massive death toll. An average of almost 50 million humans a day would be murdered. Nobody would be left alive on Earth by OCT-21 when he believes that God would destroy the earth with fire. About 6.7 billion people -- 97% of the human race -- would all have been exterminated in the largest genocide in history. This would involve over 1,000 times the number of murders as the previous largest genocide. That was also religiously-motivated -- the genocide perpetrated against Jews and Roma by the Nazis in Germany during the 1930's and 1940's.

However, the rapture did not happenon schedule , and there are no indications that major loss of life has occurred since MAY-21.

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Camping's latest story:

During his 90 minute talk on Monday, MAY-23, Camping maintained the position that all of his past predictions came true, and that his end of the world prohecy will also materialize:

  • Concerning 1988-MAY-21: He had predicted that God would bring Judgement churches: He said that this actually happened:
    "It was that time that God brought judgment on all of the church congregations. On May 21, that was a day before Pentecost in 1988, when God begin to bring judgment on the church age. The Bible is dripping with all kinds of information that indicates that God was so upset with the churches that they have developed their own rules of what the nature of salvation is and the authority of God.

    "There is no church that believes in the Bible in the original language [as] came from the lips of God. No church does."

    "At that point, Christ left the church and installed Satan there. To make the judgment more severe, God actually enlisted Satan, who is the enemy of God to rule in the churches. So it was a terrible, terrible year." 5

  • Concerning 1994-SEP-21: He had predicted that a judgment day was likely. He said:

    "On Sept. 7, 1994, when I said there was a high likelihood there was a judgment day, it was true. There was judgment in a terrible way and there was salvation in a wonderful way...The salvation came because May 21, 1988 to Sept 7, 1994, no one could be saved in the world."


    "On Sept. 7, God brought even more judgment on the churches because in the world, where judgment had begun, God lifted that judgment and began to allow people to become saved outside of churches, leaving the churches under judgment. It was a horrible day for the churches. They continued under the judgment of God. It was a wonderful day for the world because people could become saved. God has begun to bring in a special in-gathering.


    "When God brought judgment upon the churches on May 21, 1988, He also brought judgment on the world. But as I indicated on Sept. 7, 1994, he lifted that judgment [by allowing people to be saved outside of churches]."

    Camping's apparently believes that if a Christian thinks that she/he was saved between 1988-MAY-21 and 1994-SEP-07, then they have deluded themselves. They may still be unsaved.

  • Concerning 2011-MAY-21: An invisible judgment did come on the world: He said:

    "... on [2011-]May 21, that weekend, this is when the spiritual aspect of it really comes through, God again brought judgment on the world."

    "From May 7, 1994 to May 21, 2011, the world was not under judgment. It was still an opportunity to be saved out there."

    Another implication of Camping's belief seems to be that after 2011-MAY-21, because of God's judgment, nobody who is not saved on Earth can be saved now or in the future. He believes, alone among Christian leaders, that everyone's fate is now sealed. This is a potentially devestating teaching. We predict that dozens of people around the would will buy into this mistaken belief, feel trapped, and commit suicide in order to avoid living through the devestation of OCT-21. We predict that Camping will have a lot of blood on his hands, in addition to the Russian teen mentioned above, by 2011-OCT-22.

  • Concerning 2011-OCT-21: The rapture will happen and the world will be destroyed. He said:

    "Five months from now from May 21, as we learn from the Bible, is Oct. 21. We are not changing the dates at all. We are just learning that we have to look at all this a little more spiritual[ly]. But it won't be spiritual on Oct. 21 because the Bible clearly teaches that then the world will be destroyed altogether. But it will be very quick. It won't be a five-month difficulty as we have learned."

    "We had all of the dates correct. We didn't change anything at all. All the proofs, all the signs are correct. The only thing is that God has not opened our eyes yet that May 21 was the spiritual coming where as we had thought it was a physical coming but he has come in a sense that he now has the world under judgment."

    "There is only one kind of people that will ascend into heaven and that has nothing to do with any religion. They could be a Hindu. They could be a Muslim, or whatever. If God has saved them then they will be caught up."

    In his book "The End of the Church Age ... and After," he writes:

    "The rapture of the believers will occur at the end of time. The rapture will take place at the same time that our Lord comes to judge the world. It will come right at the time that the world is beginning to collapse and when God prepares to destroy the world by fire." 6

Camping seems to have boxed himself into a corner with his predictions. When 2011-OCT-21 comes and passes uneventfully with no rapture, no burning up of the Earth, and no massive religiously-motivated genocide of every human left on Earth, he would seem to have no option but to admit that he was wrong. However, Camping is a creative person. He might find some wiggle room somewhere in his predictions that will explain the failure of his predictions of the rapture and end of the world on OCT-21.

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Webmaster's editorial:

We normally do not express our opinions. Our mandate is to carefully explain the beliefs, practices, and deeds of others. However, because of the potential for loss of life arising from Camping's predictions, we are moved to make an exception in this case.

Almost complete freedom of speech is guaranteed throughout North America by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The importance of this freedom is reinforced daily as we observe in the the media about the misery, violence, and loss of life that the lack of freedom of speech causes in other countries.

However, freedom of speech must be used responsibly. It only works well when the public is well educated in techniques of skeptical analysis of statements, including religious prophecies. Schools and faith groups need to teach the 100% failure rate of prophecies that were to have happened in our past, all of which did not come to pass. People need to approach prophecies for our future with high levels of skepticism and doubt. Unfortunately, there will always be frightened and depressed people in the world whose grasp on life is tenuous. We would like to see all pro-life religious leaders make a contribution to lowering the suicide rate by following a self-imposed moratorium on future prophecies on topics like the rapture, tribulation, war of Armageddon, destruction of the world, etc.

If they don't, then they will be exhibiting depraved indifference towards the most vulnerable among us, and will have a moral responsibility -- but not an legal one -- for the suicides that they trigger.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Garance Burke, "Preacher says he was 5 months off, Judgment Day will occur in October," Associated Press, 2011-MAY-23, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  2. Admin, "Rapture Disappointment," Liberal Baptist Rev, 2011-MAY-24, at: http://www.liberalbaptistrev.com/ This was originally on the website's home page. It will probably be relocated in the future.
  3. Katherine T. Phan. "Harold Camping Concludes Silence, Predicts October 21 Doomsday," Christian Post, 2011-MAY-23. at: http://www.christianpost.com/news/
  4. Elena Garcia, "Fearful Teen Commits Suicide Due to Harold Camping's Judgment Day Forecast," Christian Post, 2011-MAY-26, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  5. Elena Garcia, "Harold Camping Defends Predictions, Insists Upon Timeline for October 21 Rapture," Christian Post, 2011-MAY-26, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  6. H. Camping, "The End of the Church Age ... and After," Page 329 & 330. Online at: http://fsiforms.familyradio.org/

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Copyright 1997 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-JUN-01 (Judgment Day + 11, and all is well)
Author: B.A. Robinson

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