Harold Camping Sets New Date For The End Of The World

California preacher Harold Camping has admitted that he got the date of the Rapture wrong when he predicted it would take place last Saturday and revised the date to October 21.

"Their world was just starting": Okay, so the world didn’t Rapture and the earth didn’t get destroyed, but it was interesting to watch 89yo Harold Camping backtrack his prediction that the world would end on May 21st by saying he was “flabbergasted” that it didn’t happen. Now it appears the magical date is Oct. 21st. But I’m guessing no one will take him seriously anymore. Photo and caption by John Mueller/Flickr

A California preacher, who predicted that 200 million Christians would be taken to heaven Saturday before the Earth was destroyed, said he felt so terrible when his doomsday prediction did not come true that he left home and took refuge in a motel with his wife.

His independent ministry, Family Radio International, spent millions – some of it from donations made by followers – on more than 5,000 billboards and 20 vehicles plastered with the Judgment Day message.

But Mr Camping said that he has now realised the apocalypse will come five months after May 21, the original date he predicted. He had earlier said Oct 21 was when the globe would be consumed by a fireball.

It is not the first time the independent Christian radio host has been forced to explain when his prediction did not come to pass. He also predicted the apocalypse would come in 1994, but said it did not happen then because of a mathematical error.

Rather than give his normal daily broadcast on Monday, Mr Camping made a special statement before the press at the Oakland headquarters of the media empire that has broadcast his message. His show, “Open Forum,” has for months headlined his doomsday message via the group’s radio stations, TV channels, satellite broadcasts and website.

It was not the first time Camping was forced to explain when his prediction didn’t come to pass. The 89-year-old retired civil engineer also prophesied the Apocalypse would come in 1994, but said later that didn’t happen then because of a mathematical error.

Through chatting with a friend over what he acknowledged was a very difficult weekend, it dawned on him that instead of the biblical Rapture in which the faithful would be swept up to the heavens, May 21 had instead been a “spiritual” Judgment Day, which places the entire world under Christ’s judgment, he said.

The globe will be completely destroyed in five months, he said, when the apocalypse comes. But because God’s judgment and salvation were completed on Saturday, there’s no point in continuing to warn people about it, so his network will now just play Christian music and programs until the final end on Oct. 21.

“We’ve always said May 21 was the day, but we didn’t understand altogether the spiritual meaning,” he said. “The fact is there is only one kind of people who will ascend into heaven … if God has saved them they’re going to be caught up.”

Josh Ocasion, who works the teleprompter during Camping’s live broadcasts in the group’s threadbare studio sandwiched between an auto shop and a palm reader’s business, said he enjoyed the production work but never fully believed the May 21 prophecy would come true. “I thought he would show some more human decency in admitting he made a mistake,” he said Monday. “We didn’t really see that.”

Follower Jeff Hopkins said he spent a good deal of his own retirement savings on gas money to power his car so people would see its ominous lighted sign showcasing Camping’s May 21 warning. As the appointed day drew nearer, Hopkins started making the 100-mile round trip from Long Island to New York City twice a day, spending at least $15 on gas each trip.

“I’ve been mocked and scoffed and cursed at and I’ve been through a lot with this lighted sign on top of my car,” said Hopkins, 52, a former television producer who lives in Great River, NY. “I was doing what I’ve been instructed to do through the Bible, but now I’ve been stymied. It’s like getting slapped in the face.”

Family Radio would never tell anyone what they should do with their belongings, and those who had fewer would cope, Camping said. “We’re not in the business of financial advice,” he said. “We’re in the business of telling people there’s someone who you can maybe talk to, maybe pray to, and that’s God.”

But he also said that he wouldn’t give away all his possessions ahead of Oct 21. “I still have to live in a house, I still have to drive a car,” he said. “What would be the value of that? If it is Judgment Day why would I give it away?”

Apocalyptic thinking has always been part of American religious life and popular culture. Teachings about the end of the world vary dramatically — even within faith traditions — about how they will occur. Still, the overwhelming majority of Christians reject the idea that the exact date or time of Jesus’ return can be predicted.

Tim LaHaye, co-author of the best-selling “Left Behind” novels about the end times, recently called Camping’s prediction “not only bizarre but 100 percent wrong!” He cited the Bible verse Matthew 24:36, “but about that day or hour no one knows” except God.

Camping offered no clues about Family Radio’s finances Monday, saying he could not estimate how much had been spent advertising his prediction nor how much money the nonprofit had taken in as a result. In 2009, the nonprofit reported in IRS filings that it received $18.3 million in donations, and had assets of more than $104 million, including $34 million in stocks or other publicly traded securities. [via The Telegraph (UK), Fox News and Daily Mail (UK)]

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