December 11, 2018

Thirty Days and Counting…

By Chaplain Mike

“We learn from the Bible that Holy God plans to rescue about 200 million people (that is about 3% of today’s population). On the first day of the Day of Judgment (May 21, 2011) they will be caught up (raptured) into Heaven because God had great mercy for them. This is why we can be so thankful that God has given us advance notice of Judgment Day. Because God is so merciful, maybe He will have mercy on you.”

• Literature from Family Radio: “Judgment Day: May 21”

A little over a year ago, we published a post here at IM on Harold Camping’s prediction that the rapture will occur on May 21, 2011, to be followed by the end of the world on October 21, 2011. Did you save the date? It’s just a month away now!

Camping’s theory is grounded in his understanding of how the Bible works. In the tract, “Christ Returns, May 11, 2011,” it is asserted that the Biblical genealogies were written because, through them, “God is giving us all of the information we need to build a timeline of history that dates Biblical events.”

The major objection to this way of thinking is, of course, the Bible’s own testimony that we cannot know the date of Christ’s return (Mark 13:32). Camping gets around this by saying that “no one knows” refers only to non-believers who do not have the Spirit and God’s Wisdom in the Word. He then simply dismisses the clear meaning of the Biblical statement that “even the Son of Man” doesn’t know, by stating that can’t mean what it says because, after all, Jesus is God. He then pulls out a few Scriptures and examples that suggest God lets his elect know what he is going to do before he acts.

On this basis, Camping and his followers say that we can know the exact date of Christ’s return. And here’s how he presents it:

“Because the year 2011 A.D. is exactly 7,000 years after 4990 B.C. when the flood began, the Bible has given us absolute proof that the year 2011 is the end of the world during the Day of Judgment, which will come on the last day of the Day of Judgment.

“Amazingly, May 21, 2011 is the 17th day of the 2nd month of the Biblical calendar of our day. Remember, the flood waters also began on the 17th day of the 2nd month, in the year 4990 B.C. The Holy Bible gives several additional astounding proofs that May 21, 2011 is very accurate as the time for the Day of Judgment. …God is proving to us that we have very accurately learned from the Holy Bible God’s time-plan for the end of the world.”

• Literature from Family Radio: “Judgment Day: May 21”

Now, that’s just the conclusion. If you want to try and follow the convoluted thinking and calculations that get Camping there, you’ll have to go to their site—for example, this piece—and look at it. I’m sure you’ll have the same reaction I did—Huh?

The main question I have is: What will happen to Harold Camping and his followers after May 21?

After “The Great Disappointment” William Miller and his followers experienced in 1843-44, the most prominent failure of apocalyptic expectation in American church history, a group of his followers revised their interpretation.

A small group of Millerites determined that Christ had cleansed the sanctuary on that fateful day, but only in heaven. Earth, they claimed, failed to participate in this glory because the earthly church neglected the true Sabbath (Saturday). This group, led by James and Ellen Gould White, went on to become the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Pretty much everyone else deemed Miller and his prophecies pure folly. The October debacle became known as the Great Disappointment, and Miller died, lonely and broken, five years later. (, 8/08/2008)

It is obvious that we are in a different place today. Though Miller’s predictions brought shame upon his individual movement in the mid-19th century, prophetic speculation continued to remain popular, and preoccupation with end-times teaching only accelerated in fundamentalism and evangelicalism for the next 150 years. It is my sense that the church and its teachers today have a saner and more mature theological perspective about eschatology. Sure, the “Left Behind” silliness is still widely accepted on a popular level, but on the whole, I think we’re moving past and away from that (see, for example, Scot McKnight’s series of blog posts on the Future of Christian Eschatology).

Certainly Camping’s predictions have not swept through today’s popular imagination the way William Miller’s did in the 1840’s, when millennial dreams were rampant, new “latter days” religious movements were springing up in many places, and expectations of the end of the world were high. So, it is likely that the coming and going of the May 21 date will be nothing more than a tiny blip on the theological and ecclesiastical radar. He is a marginal character at best and few if any take him seriously.

I think all of this is worth noting, however, in order to point out the constant tendency of religious faith to produce various forms of nuttiness that carry with them tortuous exercises in warped logic. For some reason teachings like these remain attractive to certain folks, who sadly always find them disappointing or even deadly in the end.

The the New Testament continually calls believers to a spirit of “alertness.” Surely that spirit includes being wary of crack-pots like Harold Camping and the unbalanced teachings they promote.

Save the date if you like. I predict you’ll be stood up.


  1. I’ve been looking for an excuse to run up some enormous credit card debt and here’s my opportunity. It’s steaks and Opus One for the duration.

  2. Rich McNeeley says:

    And I planned my vacation for June. I wonder if I can get a refund on my tickets.

  3. The main question I have is: What will happen to Harold Camping and his followers after May 21?

    I watched a documentary on a man who was claiming to be Christ and he had his following, obviously. Many of whom were young girls and he enjoyed having sexual relations with those young women. He, too, had said the end was near and had chosen a date. Of which I do not remember…..Let’s say it was October 28, 2008 and it was during that time when they were filming the show, on purpose.

    He and his followers, maybe 30 or so (quite small for a man claiming he was Christ, wouldn’t you say?), hunkered down in some field somewhere to watch the end come.

    The end didn’t come.

    The surprise to the cameramen and viewing audience alike was the excuses this man calling himself Christ gave for the end not coming when he had “prophesied” it to come.

    And the followers? They listened to him……hook, line and sinker.

    Lord have mercy on us all!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The main question I have is: What will happen to Harold Camping and his followers after May 21?

      Other articles on Camping say that he sets a date like this and surfaces with followers and PR every 10-15 years.

      My guess is that when Camping’s Prophecies and Calculations fail, most of his followers ditch him. He then drops into obscurity and over the next 10 years or so re-calculates a new date and starts preaching where he left off. Enough time has passed that the memory of the last time and date has faded, and he starts picking up new followers who don’t remember the previous go-round. Plus, there will be a natural rise in expectation and energy as the new date approaches.

      • That’s what happened when he said Jesus would return in 1994. Thankfully, Harold is old and decrepit enough that he probably won’t be around long enough to pull this stunt again …

      • I think his problem is that he was using the Gregorian calendar. Even the Julian calendar might be a problem. Maybe he needs to figure out the type of calendar system being used as the scriptures were being written…. or maybe he could try the Mayan calendar and divide by GMT… or maybe…..

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I watched a documentary on a man who was claiming to be Christ and he had his following, obviously. Many of whom were young girls and he enjoyed having sexual relations with those young women.

      As my old Dungeonmaster used to say, “The reason most Cults are founded is so the cult leader can (1) get rich, (2) get laid, or (3) both.”

  4. Richard Hershberger says:

    I passed a convoy of these people a week ago while on a road trip. It was a half dozen or so RVs, completely decked out with signage proclaiming the date.

    My thought at the time was how they would respond to an offer to purchase those RVs at a fraction of their market value, but with the proviso that they had full use of them until May 22. For good measure, throw in their homes, too. If they actually believe their message, they should jump at the opportunity to raise last-minute funds to spread the word, at zero cost to themselves.

    • I saw the same or similar parked in the Wal Mart parking lot across from my bus stop going to work early one morning. Six identical RVs with signage using Wal Mart’s free overnight parking for RVers. I feel sorry for these folks as they are headed for near certain disillusionment. My anger is reserved for those who are leading them on this nutty venture.

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    There’s one of Camping’s billboards near my house, at Broadway & Euclid in Anaheim. Billboard space doesn’t come cheap in this area; my guess is they don’t expect to need the money after May 21.

    Camping’s numerological calculations reminds me of the JWs from 1914 to 1975, Weisenhaunt’s 88 Reasons back in 1988, and this Third Eagle guy on Youtube. All the dates and fulfillments calculated out almost to the minute (literally to the minute in the 1975 Rosh Hashanah Rapture Scare); how dare God not follow The Checklist?

    And also, with all the Nostradamus/Mayan Calendar 2012 hype, I wonder if Camping tweaked his dates to top Dec 21, 2012?

  6. Steve Newell says:

    If a “preacher” proclaims a message the runs counter to the words of Christ, does that make that person an “anti-Christ”.? In the Matthew 24, Jesus clearly states no one but the Father knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return.

    I just asking.

  7. Hal Lindsey anyone?

    “The Late Great Planet Earth.” 28 million copies sold.

    28 million people can’t be wrong? Can they?

    Most premillennial dispensationalists are much more careful than Camping, but there are still alot of people out there with a lot of wacky theories and interpretations of Bible prophecy. Rather than focus on unclear bible prophecies, one would think that there time would be better spent on the very clear commands of Jesus.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Hal Lindsay and the resulting Christians For Nuclear War messed up my head in the Seventies. It took a long tour in the same Post-Evangelical Wilderness as Eagle plus massive doses of D&D to duct-tape my head back together.

      Rather than focus on unclear bible prophecies, one would think that there time would be better spent on the very clear commands of Jesus.

      Remember the Essence of Gnosticism: These End Time Facts & Dates(TM) are Secret (Occult) Knowledge (Gnosis) that only a Speshul Few Can KNOW. And WE Are That Speshul Few! Unlike all those Sheeple out there (who WILL be Left Behind), We and We Alone KNOW What’s REALLY Going On!

      • The Left Behind books were really pushed. I didn’t read them but I watched and believed the Cheesy movies. I remember when 9-11 happeend how excited some Christians were…they thought the rapture was going to happen any day? Man..oh man…and I thought LDS theology was out there!!!

        BTW…I was contacted again by my former Crusade director. 2 years later..he’s claiming I poked him on Facebook, “Huh?” (Scatches head…) I’m hoping this won’t mean another round of emails, calls, etc.. God knows how many fundegelicals can’t observe regular boundaries. (rolls eyes…)

        • poked – hoping to pull you back…

          Yes Left Behind theology is extremely cheesy and wrong…. and the movies were even worse (I suffered through one just to understand the hype)…

      • Oddly enough (or maybe not so oddly), today’s reading from the Gospel of John for the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified had a verse that jumped out at me; all the Gnostic foo-fah about the Gospel of Judas and what have you was based on “Here is Speshul Sekrit Knowledge What Jesus Only Told (the Disciples/Judas/Mary Magdalene/Us Truly True Real Chrisitians)”, but He tells the High Priest:

        “Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

        No super-sekrit speshul teachings for the initiate few.

  8. It’s fitting that this post followed the ones regarding radical Christianity. Here is the logical conclusion of radical Christianity: a group of the true believers untainted by the worldliness of the rest of us, huddled on a hilltop waiting to be beamed up.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Which literally happened with the Millerites in 1844. All dressed in white robes for Heaven, an image of end-of-the-world weirdness that’s still cited to this day. Including these definitions of “Unclear on the Concept”:

      1) The woman who brought her cow along (dressed in a cow-sized white robe) so her children would have milk in Heaven.
      2) The other woman who came to the hilltop with steamer trunks (wrapped in white cloth) full of the latest fashions so she’d have something to wear in Heaven.

      But some women in a 1980s-era Rapture Scare in Korea took it farther (and darker): They had abortions so the kid in the womb wouldn’t weigh them down and prevent them from acending in the Rapture. (Preacher that started that Rapture scare almost got lynched after the date passed.)

  9. Some people are just so desperate to find an identity that they’ll drink any cool-aide and give the finger to rational intellect. I say, the best way to handle a follower of Camping is the same way you would deal with any adherent of a conspiracy theory. Ask one simple question: “Let’s say, hypothetically, of course, that Camping is wrong. At what point would you know that and why? What one single thing would it be necessary to prove to you that he is lying, if he was?”
    This forces them to do one of two things: Be prepared to ignore his excuses when his prediction turns out wrong, OR admit that no matter what they see or hear, there is no way they are going to not believe whatever this man says. At this point you got them for giving the allegiance to a man that belongs only to God.

  10. Look at it this way – it’s the week before my birthday. If Mr. Camping is correct, you lot will save a bundle on the lavish and expensive items of tribute I have grown to expect and demand in order to celebrate my natal day.

    Now, where’s the downside to that?


  11. Camping’s last date took place when I was in middle school. I attended a christian school at the time. Such was the controversy that we students were not allowed to state the date aloud, only being able to refer to it as “next Tuesday” and the like.

    I was floored when I heard about this. How in the world can people trust the guy that was wrong already? Even if you don’t have the knowledge of the Bible to know that Jesus himself said we wouldn’t know the day, this seems like the kind of thing you only get one shot at.

    And yet…

    • I share your frustration! It just occurred to me though, maybe he just didn’t make enough money the last time around. Maybe he’s just fleecing the people for easy cash knowing that enough of them will just give up and go home afterwards that he can just claim the remaining “advertising funds” and retire. But yeah, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…. A fool and his money are easily parted by Harold Camping.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      How in the world can people trust the guy that was wrong already?

      “Nine out of ten New Ideas are really Old Mistakes. But to a generation who weren’t around to remember the last time that Old Mistake was made, they seem like Fresh New Ideas.” — G.K.Chesterton (from memory)

      If you weren’t involved last time it came around and never heard of it, you wouldn’t know that Camping “was wrong already.” And you’re predisposed to believe him because he’s preaching earnestly along the same PMD lines you were raised with or converted into at the Altar Call. (End-of-the-World scare paranoia is an Altar-Call evangelist’s best friend.) And Pre-Trib Rapture has the appeal of being an easy escape — not only from the Horrors of The Antichrist and The Tribulation but from anything that’s getting you down.

      Maybe he’s just fleecing the people for easy cash knowing that enough of them will just give up and go home afterwards that he can just claim the remaining “advertising funds” and retire.

      I’m not sure Camping is in this for the money. He may just be tunnel-visioned on The End and The Date, going back to “Now I’ve Calculated It Right!” over and over again.

      • Yes, I think he’s probably a True Believer who just re-calculates and is all “This Time For Sure!” when his prophecies don’t work out.

        This kind of ‘hidden codes in the Bible’ reminds me of the “Pyramid Inch”; again, not a consciously deliberate hoax, but just so focussed on ‘proving’ the rightness of the theory that a bit of fudging is considered harmless. After all, if measuring the Great Pyramid by ordinary measures doesn’t turn out right, but if you invent a special measure and miraculously get a figure related to the length of the astronomical year, then your special invention must be the “correct” one as it should have been:

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Ah, yes, the original Pyramid Power! Victorian English PROOF (via Pyramid Inch measurements) that the dimensions of the Great Pyramid were laid out by God as Prophecy.

          Years ago in a used bookstore, I actually leafed through a copy of the Victorian book that started all the Pyramid Power mania. Something about how the Pyramid was actually built by (1) Noah, (2) one of Noah’s sons, or (3) Melchizedek and the dimensions of the interior (measured in Pyramid Inches) were God showing us History Written in Advance, at a rate of one Pyramid Inch per year. Got really weird near the end, in the manner of the Unabomber Manifesto — the entire last chapter was one long rant against the Satanic Metric System. (Continuing into a rant on the SIN of America and France in overthrowing their God-Ordained Monarchy by Divine Right.)

          Following the links through Wikipedia, I discovered a familiar name in the list of Pyramid Prophecy types — Charles Taze Russell, AKA the guy who started the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Given the early JW’s obsession on setting dates themselves, do 1914 and 1975 correspond to some Pyramid Prophecy measurements?

  12. CM, I am just hoping that those of us who are not raptured can read a great blog here on May 22.

  13. David Cornwell says:

    Well, this is the last day of my no sugar, no flour diet (lost 17 lbs since Thanksgiving) and will be stocking up on ice cream and some other goodies. I might as well give up on Methodist total abstinence that my parents taught me also (come to think of it I gave that up a while ago!).

  14. Do we know what time of day? I wanted to know whether to schedule anything else.

  15. And what does the scripture say about a phophet how prophesies and it does not com to pass????….something about him not being from who???

    • Sorry in a hurry to get out of my office: And what does the scripture say about a phophet WHO prophesies and it does not comE to pass????….something about him not being from who???

    • And something about a rock party? Maybe even with real rocks? 😉

  16. I remember talking about this in my undergrad sociology of religion class. For whatever reason, when a charismatic/cult leader makes a prediction, and it fails, it ends up rallying the group and drawing them into deeper commitment rather than causing them to doubt the validity of it all.

  17. Gnosticism is alive, and well.

    PS- I hope Camping is right for a change.


    Here’s an interesting series of articles (make sure to read parts 2 and 3) by someone who used to go to the same church as Camping. It’s scary to see how hubris can cause someone to wander so far from the truth, and even scarier to see how many people are eager to follow.

  19. Elightenment enthusiasm taming the deepest mysteries of scripture. A year ago, we “find” Noah’s ark. This year, we calculate precisely the day and hour which even the Son of Man isn’t supposed to know. It proves again the connection between modernism and fundamentalism. Modernism tamed mystery by proving that there is no such thing; fundamentalism tamed mystery by rationalizing it.

  20. Randy Thompson says:

    You’ll never go broke predicting the end of the world.

    Nor will you lack followers.

  21. Doug Kenney says:

    Suppose that he’s right?

    Then – YOU’RE DOOMED!

  22. Driving home tonight, I just saw 2 billboards along the highway warning of the judgment day and of Christ’s return. I wondered what it was all about. Thank you for the enlightenment.

  23. Don’t suppose it’s time to bring back those cheesy “Thief in the Night” movies again, do you?

    • P'tricia says:

      I was just wondering the same…is it time to scare MY kids
      with those “theif in the night movies” just like I was…well they were doubting God the other day,
      that should smarten’ em right up! : )

  24. anyone listen to Camping for any length of time on his radio broadcasts? notice the manner which the call in questions/hearers pose their questions (screened of course)? the droning of his voice is almost hypnotic. maybe it is in simply a characteristic of his that he cannot regulate, or a cleverly crafted on-the-air persona…

    however, his single-minded religious focus no different than many nut-jobs-4-Jesus out there peddling their brand of snake oil over the air waves. i think everything that can be peddled in the name of Jesus is being done so today with the internet now providing a larger soap box from which to instruct the pedestrian rabble in need of special enlightenment…

    it is a scary religious landscape one must maneuver thru as the idea of being ‘orthodox’ or ‘grounded’ in the faith seemingly the minor view nowadays. the religious confusion is great even though the media manner which could be used to help clarify the glaring theological errors usurped by those that have a greater motivation or passion to peddle their versions of fringe or outright heretical teachings.

    i never gave much thought to the concept of the battle for the mind that rages constantly today. common sense does not seem to be too common today. not only along religious lines, but social & worldview & political lines. everywhere there is a syncretic jumble of ideas constantly being re-stirred & mixed in with the daily doses of KoolAid being offered to the hearers that let their ears be tickled…

    i am thinking this situation is only going to get worse, not better. not sure if that is a ‘sign’ that the End Times are drawing nearer more swiftly or if the Truth becomes clearer the louder those other voices clamoring for their
    share of bandwidth get…

    Lord have mercy… 🙁

  25. I have a friend who went to church with a family who followed Camping back in 1994. That family had become convinced of Camping’s prediction. The husband called my friend around 10 PM the night before the event, telling him how exciting it was going to be, and that it was just a matter of time. He said farewell to my friend, and hung up.

    That was the last my friend ever saw of that family. He supposes they were so embarrassed they didn’t have the courage to show up in church again.

    Truly sad and so unnecessary.

  26. Luckily I booked my vacation ahead of that date …

  27. I feel I need to repent of guilty pleasure I am going to have after next month. I will repent AFTER laughing, not before.

  28. Interestingly, Camping’s bunch, which operates a large shortwave radio facility in Florida just renewed their broadcast license – which isn’t cheap. Seems a bit counter-intuitive to spend the big bucks to do this when it’s all going to be toast in a few months.