According to evangelical Christian leader Harold Camping, the world will come to an end this Saturday. Camping, the 89-year-old leader of Family Radio Worldwide, predicts that the second coming of Jesus Christ will occur on May 21.
I haven’t written an article for a while, but it appears that I may have put this one together just in time. According to evangelical Christian leader Harold Camping, the world will come to an end this Saturday.
Camping, the 89-year-old leader of Family Radio Worldwide, predicts that the second coming of Jesus Christ will occur on May 21.
Camping claims that those who have accepted Christ as their savior will rise into the air and join him in the sky before proceeding on to heaven, an event known in evangelical circles as “the Rapture.”
Once the Rapture occurs, those left behind will experience the wrath of God until the world is completely destroyed by fire on Oct. 21, 2011.
Camping is not without followers. Family Radio Worldwide broadcasts are heard on more than 150 radio stations, and Camping’s end-of-time sermons are translated into 48 languages. Billboards, bumper stickers and pamphlets warning of our impending doom can be found all over the world.
Some have quit their jobs and sold their possessions so they can focus on spreading the word before it’s too late. One 60-year-old man from Staten Island, N.Y., spent $140,000 — his life savings — buying advertisements on bus kiosks and subway cars.
What is the inspiration for such unquestioning faith? Camping claims his prediction was derived from a mathematical analysis of the Bible. His doomsday calculus is the square of the product of five, which represents “atonement,” 10, which represents “completeness,” and 17, which represents “heaven.”
That number — 722,500 — is equal to the number of days between Christ’s crucifixion and his return to judge the earth. According to Camping, Jesus is scheduled to arrive on May 21, 2011, 6 p.m. EDT.
I guess it should have been obvious. However, this isn’t the first time Camping has made such a prediction. Two decades ago, his mathematical gymnastics resulted in the prediction that the world would end in September 1994.
When the world did not cease to be, Camping blamed it on a miscalculation, but the experience wasn’t a complete failure: The publicity he generated led to increased donations and book sales.
The fallibility of those making apocalyptic predictions is not uncommon. In fact, history is replete with countless examples of failed doomsday prophecies. Saint Clement predicted that the world would end in year 90, and Charles Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, predicted that the end of days would occur in 1794.
William Miller, founder of the Millerite movement, told his 50,000 followers that Jesus would return to earth in April 1843. Many gave away their belongings, stopped tending their crops and gathered on hilltops to wait for God to rapture them into heaven. When Jesus did not appear, Miller next pointed to Oct. 22, 1844, a date Millerites would later refer to as the “Great Disappointment.”
The Millerites disbanded into several splinter groups, one of which became the Seventh Day Adventists. Ellen White, one of the movement’s founders, subsequently predicted that the world would end in both 1850 and 1856.
Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, predicted that Jesus would return by Feb. 15, 1891. Members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses have claimed that Armageddon would commence in 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1957, 1975 and 1994.
Pat Robertson, televangelist and leader of the Christian Coalition, predicted that the world would end in 1982. He ran for president in 1988.
Evangelist and faith healer Benny Hinn not only predicted that Christ would return in 1999, but that God would use fire to “destroy the homosexual community of America” by 1995. Hinn’s predictions were wrong, but he certainly put a new spin on the term “flaming homosexual.”
Wayne Bent, also known as Michael Travesser of the Lord Our Righteousness Church, claimed that Oct. 31, 2007 would be God’s day of judgment. It wasn’t. However, Bent’s day of judgment came on Dec. 15, 2008 — that’s when he was convicted of criminal sexual contact with a minor. He is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence.
It is not surprising that so many doomsday prophecies never come to pass; what is surprising is that so many continue to believe despite a clear track record of failure. Why?
It is a fact of life that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Rather than hope for the best, many struggle with the anxiety caused by fear of the unknown. Doomsday predictions offer a short-term diversion to those who are unable to cope with reality.
According to cosmologists, the sun will expand to become a red giant and engulf the earth in 7.6 billion years. Long before that happens, odds are that the earth could suffer dozens of potential extinction events caused by climate change or astronomical impacts.
No one knows when the end might come, but with so many wild predictions, sooner or later, someone will finally get it right. Unfortunately, there won’t be anyone around to say, “I told you so.”
Read more from Matthew Casey at matthewcasey.net.