Harold Camping

You would think no one in the Christian fold would be tempted to indulge in date-setting, because the Lord cautions against it:

  • “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
  • “Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
  • “For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
  • “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:
  • “Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
  • “And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”
  • (Mark 13:32-37).

Rapture-Ready Van

You would be wrong. Harold Camping's proof that May 21, 2011 is the date of the rapture is, firstly, the claim that this date is 7,000 from Noah's flood:

"Years ago we learned from the Bible that the flood occurred in the year 4990 B.C. More recently we learned that Judgment Day is to occur in the year 2011 A.D. The year 2011 A.D. is exactly 7,000 years after the year 4990 B.C. Just before the flood Noah was instructed by God that in seven days the flood would begin (Genesis 7:4, 10-16). Using the language of 2 Peter 3:8 that one day is as a thousand years, God used Noah, who was a preacher (2 Peter 2:5) to declare that “mankind has seven days or 7,000 years to escape destruction.” Since 2011 A.D. is precisely 7,000 years after Noah preached that warning, God has given mankind a wonderful proof that Judgment Day will occur in the year 2011." (Harold Camping, Pamphlet "Proof" from Family Radio web-site).

In reality the Bible does not give a date for the flood nor can any such date be teased out of the various genealogies and similar information from which diligent interpreters seek to coax it. If this even were the date of the flood, there is no reason to expect the Day of Judgment to occur seven thousand years subsequent to this date, because God does not warn Noah to await judgment seven thousand years hence, but a flood seven days hence, nor is there any forty thousand year period of rain expected to follow the second coming. Another proof:

"Let us return now to the 722,500 days, which is from April 1, 33 A.D. (the day Christ was crucified and died) until May 21, 2011 (the day when God’s salvation plan is altogether completed and all of the true believers are caught up, or raptured, into Heaven). The number 722,500 is made up of two sets of identical significant numbers. Each number is intimately related to God’s salvation plan:
"5 x 10 x 17 x 5 x 10 x 17 = 722,500
"The atonement or redemption demonstrated by Christ’s suffering and death on April 1, 33 A.D. (the number 5) is 100% completed on May 21, 2011 (the number 10) when all the true believers are raptured into Heaven (the number 17). Remarkably, this number sequence is doubled to indicate that it has been established by God and will shortly come to pass (Genesis 41:32)." (Harold Camping, the pamphlet 'Proof' from the Family Radio web-site).

This second proof features totally arbitrary assignment of symbolic value to numbers (5 = atonement) which are then manipulated in a whimsical way (5 x 10 x 17) squared. Why squared, why not cubed?

  • “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. . .

  • “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. . .

  • “The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
  • (Matthew 24:36-51).

It is genuinely sad to think that people have sold their worldly possessions through faith in this nonsensical interpretive scheme. This kind of date-setting does real harm to the cause of Christ, because it gives the world occasion for ribald laughter when the predicted date comes and goes with nothing remarkable happening. Date-setting is to throw a big fat soft-ball slowly so that it hangs right over the plate for the atheists to smack. This gives them a chance to sneer, not at Mr. Camping's foolish and unbiblical playing with numbers, but at the Bible, at the "mainstream" belief that Christ will return:

"Walking among them, I'm wondering if they are indeed bonkers — if Camping's legionnaires are any nuttier than those who claim Christ will return on a date TBD (i.e., mainstream Christianity). It's hard to tell; as we head down Broadway, Dan and the others are confronted by a number of rattled folks who aggressively counter with their own strange beliefs. One middle-aged Latino repeatedly yells, 'NO ONE KNOWS,' while a Hasid makes angry eyes, muttering as he smacks away a pamphlet." (There Were Nine Days Left, by Chris Faraone, p. 7 , the Portland Phoenix, May 20, 2011).

Harold Camping is aware that the Bible teaches no man knows the day and the hour, but he's too clever to believe it:

"The Bible tells why the Bible did teach that. In Acts 1:7, at the time that the New Testament church age was about to begin, Jesus taught His disciples:
"'And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power.'
". . .However, it was not until a very few years ago that the accurate knowledge of the entire timeline of history was revealed to true believers by God from the Bible. This timeline extends all the way to the end of time." (Harold Camping, pamphlet 'No Man Knows the Day or Hour,' from the Family Radio web-site).

The 'softer' kind of date-setting practiced by writers like Hal Lindsey, who informed people a while back that this was the 'terminal generation,' does the same kind of harm in a less dramatic way. When the predictions of these 'prophecy experts' fail to come to pass, some people conclude the Bible can't be trusted. The Bible is fully trustworthy and wholly true, but unfortunately the same cannot be said of all its interpreters.

"For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3).

" Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." (Matthew 25:13).

That Jesus will come again to judge the world is entirely certain. When He will do so is not known.

Update: May 21, 2011 has come and gone with nothing out of the ordinary happening. Harold Camping has responded by taking the tack of the Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses: he has spiritualized his first failed prophecy, and deferred his hopes until the next date, in October. Hopefully his followers will figure it out and desert this false prophet.

But then again, Joseph Smith has followers to the present day, in spite of a similar flop:

"Four days later, April 6, 1843, at the General Conference of the Church, while the Spirit rested upon him, the Prophet said: 'Were I going to prophesy, I would say the end would not come in 1844, 5, or 6, or in forty years. There are those of the rising generation who shall not taste death till Christ comes.'" (Joseph Smith, quoted in Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 692).