The latest false prophecy about the end of the world was made by American radio evangelist Harold Camping who said that judgment day “… will be on May 21st that God will raise up all the dead that have ever died from their graves. Earthquakes will ravage the whole world as the earth will no longer conceal its dead.”
The prophecy was based on two numerological proofs. The first proof was based on Genesis 7:4, when God said to Noah: "Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made." According to Camping, when God referred to seven days, he meant both seven days and seven thousand years, because "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." The flood occurred in 4990 BC. Seven thousand years later is 2011.
The second proof looks at the significance of the number of days between the crucifixion and 21 May, 2011. There are 722,500 days between these dates. 722,500 is a significant number because it is composed of the significant numbers 5x10x17x5x10x17. Five signifies redemption; ten signifies completion; and 17 signifies heaven. The numbers represent the day of redemption (5) and the end of the Christian era (10) and the ascent to heaven (17) – and these factors are doubled for added significance!
For all of his profound mathematical insight Camping was profoundly wrong – 21st May came and went. Instead of admitting his mistake, Camping released a special statement on his radio program Open Forum stating that his predicted 21 May 2011 Rapture was “an invisible judgment day” and that he has come to understand it as a “spiritual”, rather than a physical event. “We had all of our dates correct,” Camping insisted, clarifying that he now understands that Christ’s May 21 arrival was “a spiritual coming” ushering in the last five months before the final judgment and destruction. But of course, and the Emperor has no clothes on either!
In an hour and a half broadcast, Camping walked listeners through his numerological timeline, insisting that his teaching has not changed and that the world will now end on 21 October 2011. Camping also speculated that perhaps a merciful God decided to spare humanity five months of “hell on earth.” Some followers said the delay was a further test from God to persevere in their faith.
The tragedy is that many people quit their jobs, sold their homes and spent their entire life savings to warn people about the impending judgment. Robert Fitzpatrick, a 60-year-old, retired transit worker from Staten Island, invested his entire life savings of $140,000 into a New York advertising campaign. I wonder if Harold Camping will refund their money? After all, the evangelist is a multi-millionaire.
In Old Testament times a false prophet was to be stoned to death. Although I don’t advocate for the return of stoning one can imagine that it certainly would be a deterrent to the wild imaginings of some people.
It’s interesting to note that the vast majority of Bible prophecies concerning the end of the world are actually aimed at how we should live now. The world will end one day, therefore it’s important how we conduct our life.
The Bible does speak about the future, but it is much more interested in how we live in the present. Jesus even told His followers “… do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
When Jesus’ followers asked him about the timing of future events he replied, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses …” (Acts 1:7). That’s a very polite way of saying “mind your business and get on with the job!” That would be very good advice for all us – including the Harold Camping’s of this world!