That will be followed by five months of fire, brimstone and plagues, with millions of people dying each day and corpses piling in the streets. Finally, on Oct. 21, the world ends exactly as the Book of Revelation says it will — with a bottomless pit, a lake of fire and, at last, a new heaven and new earth.
Doomsday preachers come and go, but at nearly 90 years old, the spry Camping has managed to ignite a nationwide movement that has garnered national attention.
Camping is not an ordained pastor with a church, and has no formal religious training. He can’t read or speak Greek, Hebrew or Jesus’ native Aramaic. His main predictive tool rests by his side in his wood-paneled office that looks like it was borrowed from the set of AMC’s Mad Men.
“I made a very deliberate decision to make the Bible my university,” Camping said, reaching for his battered, brown King James Bible and flipping nimbly through pages with marked-up margins and taped-up tears.
“I bought a Bible with a good leather cover. This is the sixth one. When you use them all the time they wear out.”
Christians have a saying: “It’s not how you mark your Bible, but how your Bible marks you that counts.” There are numerous people who know the Bible from cover to cover and yet misinterpret it and/or ignore its commands.
Camping appears to be one of them. The doomsday preachers turned into a false prophet when a previous date he set for the rapture, Sept. 6, 1994, came and went without the Judgment Day Camping had announced.
David Rastetter, who operated a now-defunct website titled, Family Radio is Wrong, noted that Camping actually suggested a number of dates:
Part of Mr. Camping’s confession is what he believes about the date of the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1994 is part of this confession. Which edition of his confession would you prefer?
(a) September 6, 1994? (subsequently extended a few days, given the slight variations in the ancient calendars). Or,
(b) September 15, 1994, the Jewish Day of Atonement? Or,
(c) September 25, 1994, the Jewish feast of tabernacles? Or,
(d) October 4, 1994, the actual birthday of Jesus that Mr. Camping calculated? Or,
(e) December 25, 1994, our traditional celebration of Christmas and Christ’s incarnation and birth, based on the statement in Revelation 11:10 that the enemies of God’s people would “send gifts one to another”? Or,
(f) February 25, 1995, the Jewish feast of Purim? Or,
(g) May 3, 1996, when he was so sure of this date that he devoted several Open Forum programs to explain how the “four watches” (alluded to in Mark 13:35) extended the September 6, 1994 date until then? Or,
(h) His current teaching, that September 6, 1994 was the right date, after all, but for the beginning of the Great Tribulation, not Judgment Day? And, since we are at least halfway through the Great Tribulation, simple arithmetic says that the return of the Lord will be no later than 2008.
In other words, Mr. Camping doesn’t know what the date of the rapture is — which is just what each of his well-marked Bibles say in Matthew, Chapter 24:
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
A poll conducted last year by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 41% of Americans expect Jesus’ return before 2040. But pinpointing an exact date is unusual, said John R. Hall, a sociology professor and author of “Apocalypse,” an examination of doomsday groups.
“What is interesting is that (Camping) is claiming he is studying the Bible and this is what the Bible says,” Hall said. “That is a very different thing than saying God has spoken to me and this is what has been revealed. It leaves him quite a bit of wiggle room.” […]
Camping was once well-regarded in the evangelical community, both for his encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture and his radio empire. But in the late 1980s, when he began teaching that churches have strayed from the Bible and embraced false doctrine, he lost much of that support.
Indeed, Harold Camping’s movement is now considered to be, theologically, a cult of Christianity.